The hidden key to successful internet of things solutions
6 July 2018
Denis King, Chief Operating Officer, Solace
Hype over the internet of things (IoT) has been gathering steam and is now at fever pitch. The number of IoT-connected devices surpassed the number of smartphones and personal computers some time ago, and last year IoT devices even overtook the number of people on the planet. Gartner estimates that over 20 billion devices will be connected to IoT by 2020, growing at about 30 per cent annually.
IoT isn’t a brand-new way of computing – organisations will still collect, integrate, analyse and automate data as they’ve done for decades. Instead, IoT dramatically increases the volume and velocity of information flow, which creates opportunities to disrupt industries for those enterprises that can out-collect, out-integrate, out-analyse and out-automate their competition.
The caveat is that IoT data collection stresses existing IT plumbing by driving data flow orders of magnitude greater than typical applications. Take connected cars, for example. On average, an operating connected car will send 25 gigabytes of data to the cloud every hour. That’s roughly 6.9 terabytes a year – for every connected car. Just to be complete, Google’s self-driving car gathers about 750 megabytes of sensor data a second – or more than 330 gigabytes per hour – which doesn’t include the car systems themselves. In any case, it’s a lot of data moving back and forth between connected devices and corporate systems.
Companies are upgrading their networks from 1 gigabyte ethernet (GigE) to 10 GigE or even 40 GigE capacity to manage the influx of IoT data, but it won’t help if the application-to-application links are already beyond their limits. What’s more, the need for increased data-movement capacity is not unique to IoT. Most major IT trends – big data, cloud computing, enterprise data grids – revolve around the real-time movement of an increasingly larger volume of information over local and long-distance networks. They all need better data movement infrastructure to deliver on the promised benefits.
This means that even if IoT is not yet on a company’s list of top IT projects, the challenges and opportunities associated with moving rising data volumes and making business processes more real-time are integral parts of projects that are priorities. Establishing a fast, reliable application infrastructure that can meet those needs will make it easier to step up to IoT when it does become a key initiative.
Solace links the worlds of IoT and IT by enabling real-time data flow between connected devices, gateways and applications running in clouds and data centres. Solace’s data-movement technology has been selected as a key infrastructure component of a next-generation electronic road pricing (ERP) system being built for Singapore Land Transport Authority that will eventually connect more than one million vehicles. Solace also enables the next generation of safe, efficient air transportation by routing real-time aeronautical, flight and weather data, along with data feeds such as TFMS, between aircraft, Global ATM systems and all kinds of equipment, sensors and users.
Hello, and welcome to Business Reporters' the future of the internet of things campaign hosted by "The Telegraph Online." I'm Alastair Greener. By 2021, 46 billion devices will be connected, and we'll be en route to an established internet of things. However, for the moment, it's not living up to expectations.
Sold on the prospects of a massive new growth market, executives are frustrated at the sluggish rate of adoption. What is the problem? Denis King, COO of Solace is here to talk us through the challenges and some of the possible solutions.
Good morning, Alastair.
In a recent survey by Cisco they found out that actually up to about 3/4 of internet of things projects actually failed. That's quite a big amount, isn't it? Why?
That's an incredible statistic. I think the main reason why most IoT Projects have been failing is really a problem looking for a solution. For the past several years there really hasn't been a well-defined business problem that people are trying to solve. It's very easy to connect up everything and bring data in. But if you can't figure out exactly the business problem you're trying to solve, then you can't monetize it. You can't bring customer value, and that's really where the failings lie.
The good news is if you look across some of the major IoT industries right now that are being successful-- manufacturing, utilities, smart city, connected assets, connected vehicles, healthcare-- these are industries that are proving to be successful right now with well-defined business problems that actually can drive net new revenue for businesses. If we keep focusing on the business problem, I think those statistics will change.
And what are the main barriers for organisations who are adopting IoT? What are the barriers that are preventing them from doing that successfully?
The biggest barrier is related to the fact that IoT is an ecosystem play. It's probably the only mega trend that I can think of it truly is an ecosystem play. You can no longer be a one vendor shop. You have to think of IoT as a best of breed type of solution.
And so when you think of the sensor side-- that's a whole industry in itself. The analytics, the business logic-- that's a whole industry of itself. And then there's the entire IT world-- the legacy IT infrastructure that you have in place. Thinking of the ecosystem as a whole and approaching it from a best of breed and not looking for that magical IoT platform is really the key.
When people look at new technologies, including internet of things, some people's approach is to wait and see. How wise do you think that approach is?
Well, I think it might have been wise a few years ago, but it certainly isn't wise now. So the idea of waiting around is really not where you want to be right now. Time is now to act.
Some organisations become preoccupied with the principle of change, and they're going to have to change all of their systems. Is that true?
I think it depends. I hate to use the word "depends," but I think it really depends on where you are in your journey. IoT is umbrellaed digital transformation. And transformation is really what IoT is. And some organisations have been well on their way by leveraging some of the big data trends and big data technologies that's been out there.
Other organisations have been relying on some of the old internet mechanisms to start their IoT projects. And what we're starting to see is a stepwise change for those companies. We already know that the internet mechanism for scaling IoT are not going to suffice any longer. The big data folks-- they need to reach out and instrument these sensors to get that data into their overall data river strategy.
Then there are other companies, though, other organisations and industries that have a long way to go. Healthcare is probably one of them with still tens of thousands of files sitting on paper. Insurance companies that still do insurance claims on paper-- they have a much more significant change. The other area of the business is really alignment from the executive level down to make that happen. So getting execs aligned with senior IT and aligned with the people-- that's a critical piece for success as well.
Yeah, It's interesting you talk though about the chief execs because leadership is a major component in the success of any application of IoT. How important is that role as far as you're concerned?
It's absolutely critical. You need alignment from the board level down. You need alignment from the board level execs, senior level IT, but more importantly the human factor with the people. IoT can mean significant transformative changes in the industry inside the company. And you need to ensure that the people that are a part of the company know where their role will be once you start making these transformative changes. And so the leadership is critical for making all that happen.
Tell us more about Solace and the way you fit into all of this.
Solace is really in the business of moving data around. Data is really the value of IoT-- is getting access to the data. There is the whole sensor side, which has its own challenges. There's the business lot of logic analytics side, and Solace is really that data river that connects it all together.
It makes it robust. It makes it secure, provides with the ability to scale to the tens of millions of these connected devices. And we've helped many companies in the IoT space. We've done projects from Singapore smart cities where we're connecting up all of their assets from buildings, from cars. We are also working with companies like the FAA. We are doing several connected car projects. We have an expertise now in how do you really scale these IoT platforms to the level they're moving towards and the level they're at today.
You talk a lot though about scaling. What is it that you do differently when it comes to scaling these projects?
We've been working on IoT projects for quite some time. And the combination of bringing reliability, robustness, and security to scaling to these tens of millions of connections is really a difficult problem to solve. Solace brings to the table a combination of hardware, software, and cloud, which is very unique in how you can solve this sort of IoT distributed problem.
Tell me more about how you use capture and analyse. And what about the cloud-- where does that fit in with IoT?
Cloud transcends everything. Sometimes it's a group within an organisation that's solving cloud separately from IoT and other digital transformation projects. The right companies are bringing cloud together as an integral part to how to be successful. The reality is while everyone in the industry likes to talk about cloud first-- single cloud-- a lot of these industries have a significant on premise set of assets and data centres.
They want to connect up devices on premise. They want to connect up devices to private cloud. They want to connect up devices to multi-public cloud. How do you create a common fabric that allows that data to move around and stream to the right consuming analytic engine? Pretty significant problem to solve and this is where Solace can really help providing that common universal fabric to connect any device anywhere in real time.
Well, that's the thing, isn't it? We see more and more devices and organisations using IoT. That's now. What about the future? Where are we headed with all of this? What sort of applications do you think we're going to be seeing in the future when it comes to IoT?
The possibilities are endless. We are only at the beginning, and we are just catching our stride in IoT. And I would say probably only 20% of the industries are really benefiting from it. But if you think about what's happening where human beings are being instrumented and the idea of going to the doctor for a checkup goes away-- there are use cases that we're working on in the payment space where kids are going to school and they're using their watch to pay for their lunches just by a swipe of their watch. The opportunities are endless, and I'm just I'm just amazed and grateful that Solace has a part to play in moving the world forward.
Well, it's certainly going to be a very exciting future, and internet of things is absolutely going to be very much a part of that. And it's really interesting to see how it's developing and to get a further insight into it. Denis King from Solace, thank you very much indeed.
Thank you, Alastair.