Smartphone Apps will Drive the Internet of Things Bandwagon
If big data, social media and cloud were the darlings of the buzzword world in recent times, the latest to join the bandwagon is the Internet of Things (IoT).  

What do I mean when I say the IoT? A network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and interact on behalf of humans.

Some interesting statistics: According to Gartner, the Internet of Things installed base will grow to 26 billion units by 2020. McKinsey found that the Internet of things has the potential to create economic impact of up to $6.2 trillion annually by 2025. As the predicted numbers are quite staggering, let me give a brief roundup of its evolution, how apps are becoming an indispensable aspect of IoT and what the future holds.

Changing Faces of IoT – The Era of Mobile Apps Development

The Internet of Things term was coined in 1999, with companies like Walmart and Tesco using the concept to tag products. After a decade of evolution, the IoT 's presence can start to be felt in our daily lives through smartphone apps, which are fast becoming the control points of IoT in today’s world.

Every day a new smartphone app pops up with innovative features and unimaginable abilities. From a mosquito repellant app that produces a sonic sound to scare mosquitoes away or Smarthings’ smart home apps connecting your rooms, doors, kettle, refrigerators to Nike's wearable sports gear, tightly integrated with your fitness routine or Google’s driver glasses -- the flurry of killer apps are reshaping our daily habits.

At an industry level, IoT-based smart and innovative apps are being used to monitor remote site assets, manage Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and device connectivity across healthcare, manufacturing or supply chain domains. McKinsey estimates by 2025, 80 percent to 100 percent of all manufacturing could be using IoT applications to improve productivity, leading to a potential economic impact of up to $2.3 trillion.

The Internet of Things Effect in 2014

Productivity gains, ease of use and timesaving are key drivers for the IoT, yet it's still in the nascent stage. The IoT suffers low penetration largely due to lack of customer awareness and solid proof of concepts in both consumer and business market. Nothing groundbreaking can be expected in the near future, but one thing is sure: the Internet of Things will continue to enter our daily lives.

Drawing from recent developments in the IoT space, five things stand out:

Technology Fragmentation and Rise of Start-ups

According to Gartner by 2020, IoT product and service suppliers will generate $19 trillion in global economic value-add through sales into diverse markets. Considering this market, 2014 will see the emergence of niche start-ups, outsourced app development companies slogging it out for bigger projects. SmartThings funding of $12.5M last November and Thinfilm Electronics raising $24M indicate investors’ increasing interest in this market.

Year of Acquisitions and Innovative Business Models

IBM’s acquisition of Libelium, a wireless sensor network hardware provider; or PTC’s acquiring ThingWorx to cater to manufacturing industry; or ARM acquiring Sensinode -- acquisitions in this area will be the new normal in 2014 (as we've already seen from Google's $3.2B Nest acquisition). Big players’ acquisition sprees and launch of new business models such as Intel’s Internet of Things Solutions group, will make 2014 an interesting year for IoT.

Increased Cloud Adoption

Cloud will definitely compete head on with standalone apps and play an increasingly important role than ever given the price advantage and its ability to provide central access to all connected devices. Telematics products and surveillance technologies transitioning towards cloud-based apps will largely dominate the retail and government sector.

Big Data: Growth of Hadoop and Kinesis

Where there’s apps, there’s going to be data with more data generated every minute. The demands for real time data has become even more pressing due to competitive dynamics. Apps like Amazon’s Kinesis will leverage its capabilities to harness the advantage of big data. Due to sophisticated connectivity, speed and high volumes of data generation, storage will be a major problem. This will be an opportunity for big data vendors like Hadoop to tap into the opportunity.

Opportunity for Wireless/Telecommunication Vendors

As connectivity will be one of the most critical aspects of IoT, it will pose a greater challenge as well as opportunity to design products to meet diverse end user micro-needs. The challenge will be to build smarter wireless and blue tooth technology that will consume less energy to facilitate better usage.

Challenges and Pitfalls

Time to market will undermine security concerns

As the competition heats up, companies large and small, will fight for market supremacy. Given the short maturity period of contemporary apps, companies will focus on reducing time to market, consequently leaving security at risk.

Criminalization and e-Security

As more and more devices connect to our daily lives, it would be easy to intrude in any of these devices and get access to private information. Enterprises will definitely seek tighter access and smarter security around their private information. On the other hand, it is a massive opportunity for vulnerable management companies to capitalize on these concerns.

Title image by lineartestpilot (Shutterstock)