The Internet of Things (IoT), the connectivity of everything, is really all just hype. We’re getting excited about something that’t not actually possible yet. Certainly, it isn’t secure and there isn’t any demand out there, right?
This is the opinion of many sceptics and when it comes to the hype aspect, they may have a point. The IoT is certainly a buzzword right now. However, the demand is there and so is the technology. Hence, the IoT is ready to far beyond the hype.
When we go back to 2011 and project forward to 2020, the growth curve expected by the IoT is phenomenal (see the figure). While this growth is not as steep as that of smartphones, the starting number in 2011 is six billion. Smartphones are projected to reach six billion in 2020. Note that six years ago, the number of connected devices surpassed the number of people on earth.
Skeptics might throw in that predictions are not yet fact. Plus, for the most part, only those folks at the leading edge are connected right now. However, if you look at the home and building automation, 70% of the connected market is expected to be made up of intelligent building and consumer electronics. Here, two billion devices were already connected at the end of 2011 and this is predicted to grow to 18 billion by 2022, according to Machina Research. European sales of smart home thermostats increased by 96% in 2014 to 700,000. And 68 million homes are estimated to be smart in Europe and North America by 2019, according to Berg Insight.
Security is a major concern, one that IoT platform vendors are actively tackling. The message across the board of vendors is clear—work with experts to ensure that your solution is secure; and build OTA (over-the-air) functionality into your solution so you can push upgrades out at any time. Secure standards are available and IoT-enabled products are being developed with these standards every day.
While the initial numbers may look smallish now, make no mistake: The market is ready. Demand is growing and so are the number of smart manufacturers.
Now that I have you convinced that the IoT is more than hype, don’t run off to hire a new engineering team to build connected products. Let’s take a step back and look at all the options, such as in-house development. And if you have access to developers who can build, maintain, and update embedded software, then this will work well for you. You need to keep the development time, cost of labor, and ongoing maintenance in mind.
The alternative is to work with an external IoT platform or embedded web server that can plug into your product. The solution you choose will have to work within your development team’s capabilities. The ideal solution should be software and hardware agnostic, so that it suits your existing structures and future changes. It should be as light as possible, allow for over-the-air updates, and come with best in class security standards.
There are some great Wiki pages out there like this one for embedded web servers that offer comparisons. But generally, we recommend getting in touch with vendors and checking on their support structures, as well as questioning them on functionality and solution roadmaps. This applies whether you go for a full IoT infrastructure or an embedded web server.
With the right support, nothing should hold you back from grabbing your slice of the IoT market.
Anatoly Lebedev is the CEO and Co-Founder of Irish company Cesanta. Together with his team, he helps define the future of embedded communication technologies. Previously, Anatoly shaped strategic partnerships in Europe, Middle East, and Africa in his eight-year tenure at Google. He is heavily involved in the Irish startup scene and can be found as a mentor at hackathons and startup weekends.