January 19, 2015
The Internet of Things – IoT – is growing much faster than most people realize. By 2020 it’s estimated there will be 26 billion embedded units connected to this vast network, up from just under one billion only six years ago. This figure does not include the slightly more than seven billion smartphones, tablets, and traditional computers projected to also be fully connected in five years time. Indeed, the amount of web-enabled consumer-grade devices is nothing compared to the enormous volume of dedicated, embedded technology linked to the global grid.
For those unfamiliar, the possibilities of IoT technology cover a wide range of product-making and service-providing business opportunities. The spectrum spreads from industrial applications to retail marketing strategies. Fundamentally it all comes down to this: a computer, typically reduced to a basic set of duties and functions, stays in virtually constant contact with other systems, devices, and programs, potentially anywhere else in the world.
Manufacturers for example may want to install hardware across multiple plants in separate countries to monitor productivity and prevent waste when language barriers and time differences would otherwise make it an accepted cost of business. Another possibility would be marketers commissioning the construction of floor pianos for malls designed to record user weight and shoe size, featuring a touchscreen encouraging players to request their tunes be sent to an email address.
Regardless of the intent, these embedded devices typically have to get the job done under harsh and ever-changing environments. It’s important the right gear is chosen. Here’s a rundown of the most important elements of IoT hardware across the board:
Whether it’s the extreme temperatures of an industrial setting or the physical abuse of public installations, IoT devices have to be built to handle a whole host of non-ideal conditions. There’s a reason leading embedded computing specialists like Kontron make it a priority to make virtually every product they manufacture capable of absorbing shocks and withstanding a wide range of weather. These factors matter when you’re talking about devices that may be deployed over a wide area and are infrequently supervised.
Mobile computing is increasing more and more with every year. While we mentioned earlier how consumer-grade smart objects like iPhones and tablets do not technically fall under the category of IoT, these products provide an insight into the possibilities for IoT services. There’s a good chance you’ll want to be able to keep things connected that aren’t stationary, whether it’s a fleet of delivery trucks or remotely monitoring patient heart health. Ideas like this are going to require IoT devices geared toward mobility, plain and simple.
The nature and true potential of the Internet of Things is just only starting to get sorted out. Businesses built on these technologies are going to likely have to change things up significantly here and there to re-calibrate their systems to an evolving industry as a whole. This means repurposing the hardware they have for altered or completely different uses. It’s important then for IoT startups to find equipment which is easy to dismantle and reinstall. Many companies provide their web-enabled products in piecemeal forms for this very purpose.
This goes beyond touchscreen toughness and the ability for a particular piece of web-enabled hardware to be refashioned if necessary. These are relatively simple goals for IoT product makers to accomplish if the metric is only a few years long. But we’re betting on IoT to be a core of business models for the next decade and beyond. The equipment acting as the spine of a startup not only has to stand up to a swath of abuse, it has to be able to do it without problem thousands of times.
If you’re an aspiring startup founder looking for a fresh playing field, then IoT-driven enterprise is probably a smart route to go. But don’t make the mistake of spending your capital on infrastructure and hardware made by the lowest bidder. Respect the importance of finding IoT equipment built professionally by companies with reputable backgrounds. Otherwise your things might not do so well at being interconnected.
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