The Internet of Things has been the trendiest term in technology. Anyone who has any interest in the IoT boom knows the potential impact connected devices can have on our world. You have probably read the Gartner report that has estimated there will be 6.4 billion connected devices in 2016 and 20.8 billion connected devices globally by 2020. You may have also read numerous articles about autonomous cars, smart homes, smart kitchens, health tracking, farming or smart cities. Seasoned developers are hacking away to connect the dots so these interconnected devices can succeed in creating day-to-day efficiencies. However, there is also a large contingent of people on the business side who spend endless hours fantasizing about these outcomes, without any real idea of what the underlying technologies are, and how current technologies need to be refined to create an ecosystem for these devices to speak the same language.
Any non-technical business owner who has started a web platform or mobile app understands that they must have a working knowledge of a product to create a sound vision and bring in the right people to build their solution. A business owner who sketches out a solution without any technical knowledge of the product is likely to fail; whereas a business owner who at least has a high-level understanding of the technology and its challenges will be more likely to have a clear vision, and steer the company in the right direction.
Being on the business side, I have struggled to understand the many complexities of the technical side of IoT. With a lack of standardized languages, protocols or middleware, the technology can be quite intimidating for the non-technical mind. My goal for this post is to provide fellow IoT business folks with a few resources that will help you start off in IoT by both understanding the latest breakthroughs and challenges in the industry, and the underlying technology itself.
Keeping up with the latest in IoT
The Internet of Things is ever evolving, and people are making breakthroughs and coming across challenges on a daily basis. Here are some forums that will help you keep up with the latest Internet of Things developments with companies, products, and technologies.
LinkedIn group discussions are a great way to learn from and chat with industry experts about the latest trends in the Internet of Things vertical. Common topics include latest IoT solutions, future IoT visions, new technologies, and IoT security, amongst others. Recommended groups are:
Twitter is a great place for news about the latest developments with IoT solutions, products, and underlying technologies. A few examples of IoT twitter accounts to follow are @theIoT, @IEEEIoT, @Things_Internet, @iotguide, and @IoT_Updates, amongst others.
In addition, there are many individual thought leaders on Twitter who provide insights and ask thought-provoking questions to promote discussion about where the industry is headed. Onalytica published a list of the top 100 IoT influencers and brands. You can also follow me, @karllashkari!
Meetups and Conferences
The best way to learn is to learn from other interested people. Try and attend local networking events to gather new ideas, and discuss these technologies with other IoT businesspeople and technologists. These events can be found on Eventbrite or Meetup.com.
Understand the underlying technologies that compose an IoT solution
Read Enterprise IoT: A Definitive Handbook by Naveen Balani
I cannot stress enough how much reading this book will help you understand the underlying technologies that compose the Internet of Things. In this technical read, Naveen Balani concisely details current available options for IoT device components, communication protocols, gateway protocols, data aggregation tools, and data processing, analytics and cognitive learning aspects of an IoT solution. These varying technologies can be confusing at first, but once understood, will allow readers to join the discussion about how we can make connected devices speak the same language through protocol standardization or integration. Balani also details the applications of IoT in the manufacturing, smart car and smart home industries. Lastly, he outlines the services available to enable the development of scalable IoT applications using the Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, and Amazon AWS platforms. A strong understanding of the content in this handbook will allow even a technology novice to understand the inner workings of an IoT solution.
Create your own IoT device
Whether you have created LEGO structures, puzzles, model launch rockets or computers, any inquisitive person knows that the best way to learn how something works is to build it. The best way to understand how an IoT device works is by building an IoT device. A few years ago, this would have taken strong programming knowledge with the need to know C and Python. Now, just like with mobile apps, there are developer tools available that allow people without a programming background to create IoT devices. Microsoft(Azure), IBM(Bluemix) and Amazon(AWS) have created PAAS(Platform as a Service) applications, detailed how-to guides and hardware starter packs that allow anyone to build their own IoT solution. Building a simple device such as a temperature and humidity monitor or a LED blinking light will teach you all you need to know about IoT components, protocols, gateways and analytics in order to have your device perform a cognitive action based on insights gathered from acquired data.
Think about the technical challenges IoT faces in today’s environment
How do today’s technologies support an IoT solution, and what technologies need to be improved or added, to support the exponentially increasing number of devices and amount of data being transmitted and stored? There is currently no standard IoT programming language, and there are a host of different protocols that support different IoT products. How can we expect the devices around us to be connected if they don’t speak the same language? YOU can help come up with a solution. Now that you understand how the technology works, it’s time to join the discussion!