The Internet of Things (IoT) is arguably the single biggest inflection point to hit the Information Technology ecosystem. Ever. We now have the potential to track data on a scale that is hard for humans to imagine. With the release of IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) we have a vast increase in available address space; vast enough to assign an IP address to every atom on earth, then do that over one hundred more times. This scale is needed because, up to this point, the majority of online information has been entered by humans; content captured by keystrokes and uploaded photos or videos, with Facebook being the most obvious example. Now we’re entering an era where data is being uploaded by sensors (or smart nodes) automatically, and all of it is designed to increase human efficiency, lower operational costs, and make our lives easier. A few quick examples:
Energy: A San Francisco Bay Area-based energy company is using sensors on oil pipelines to track pressure changes. When a sensor reports a pressure drop, it’s entered as a service request into a Remedy system. Not a typical service desk example, but a great IoT use case.
Automotive: BMW is developing sensor systems that capture driving conditions (e.g. icy roads) and automatically send updates to other BMWs in the area, which then engage the cars ABS system when they approach that patch of road.
Consumer: FitBit trackers are now helping millions essentially gameify their workout routines and compare themselves to their peers. Levi’s recently announced plans to release a line of smart clothing. Nike offers shoes that track your running activity and upload it to your home system for analysis. Amazon is beta testing drones to deliver shiny objects to your doorstep.
Medical: Wi-Fi enabled medical tools and devices are commonplace in most hospitals, and are focusing on both communications between patients and their healthcare providers, as well as real-time monitoring of a patient’s condition. This can also be applied to patients receiving care at home through a wireless connection to their local doctor.
Manufacturing: Any car built in the past few years was assembled by robots, who take parts from a vast ecosystem of supply chain manufacturers and create your sensor-laden automobile. The same thing applies to airplanes, refrigerators, mobile devices, etc. All supply chain components are tracked via IP-enabled devices that report shortages, delays, etc. This was the first industry to really embrace IoT.
IoT is the essence of Digital Service Management, and the implications for IT service providers are game-changing. This is no longer a matter of discovering and mapping thousands of servers or end-user devices on a network. While we’re able to manage data for billions of devices (e.g. mobile phones), we are quickly entering a phase where the number of nodes sending data is rising into the trillions. This is Big Data on a whole new scale, and the ability to track changes that have reverberating effects across a network are going to determine who succeeds and who fails as this technology matures.
In order to succeed in this new era, the Digital Services ecosystem needs to take “industrial grade” services for discovery mapping and change management databases (solutions that tell you what you have and what’s changed) to a whole new level. This includes how the data is tracked, captured, analyzed, and displayed.
Like any other digital service, IoT should be driven by business imperatives. The first step is to determine your organization’s business drivers for requiring data uploads from smart nodes. The second is to make sure you have the right systems in place to support that level of scalability and efficiency, which implies having the right partner to support you.