What Will IoT Wreak?
The Internet of Things will usher in a transformation that will change networking's focus from resource access to answering questions.
The Internet transformed networking not because of IP, but because it presented a new model for consumer communications. Before the Internet, "communication" was among connected sites, something like calling even for data applications. After the Internet, it was all about resource access. This is important, because the Internet of Things, or IoT, will bring about its own transformation, making networking all about answering questions. That might prove more important in the long run than the revolution of the Internet itself.
We have already taken a small step toward transformation in the use of mobile devices. Remember Siri, and the now-famous most-asked question, "What's that?" There are two levels of innovation reflected in that simple question. First, the next step technology has to take is to move from just providing decision support to providing answers as well. Second, to take that step, we have to be able to assimilate an almost-human understanding of the context of the person asking the question. IoT has no clearer mission.
It might be tempting to see the IoT future as simply an enhanced form of search, but another aspect of mobility makes that a weak solution. Context is complicated; we have to absorb all the stimuli the user would be sensitive to at their specific points in space and time. That volume of data cannot be collected in a handset, not only because the filtering of the mass of data would be impossible but because the cost of the mobile data delivery needed for a single "answer" would be staggering. So the first big change IoT brings is that it creates agents acting on behalf of the user to digest and interpret data. The data pathways of the future don't reach out to Web users but inward to Web agents.
What does this look like, in infrastructure terms? The underlying IoT information model would be a set of data repositories organized by sensor owners. On top of this, both sensor owners and third parties would likely build "context agents" to analyze the sensor data and obtain insights. On top of those agents would be extemporaneous user personal agents to assimilate the data and provide answers on demand. I think the cloud is the logical place to host all of this, and so cloud providers could also be expected to offer IoT/contextual services. In fact, IoT would justify massive cloud growth.
The IoT answer model is the Internet turned inside out. Sensor information needed to develop the social and geographic context for users will be collected as a database for inquiry, and a series of ad hoc specialized agent processes will then access the information to provide answers on demand. Instead of users accessing information resources, they'll access these agents, and so the main information paths for answer processing, unlike those of the Internet, will be inside the cloud.
IoT at Enterprise Connect
Enterprise Connect Advance Rate ends Friday, Jan. 8!
Register for an entire event pass or Tuesday through Thursday conference pass to save an additional $200 off the advance rate. This special discount, available using the code NJPOST, represents a total savings of $900 off the onsite price! Plus, register three or more attendees from your company for even bigger savings.
The first of these examples demonstrates that the new answer model extends easily to retail. Imagine a product or product class creating a kind of "energy field" around it. The field's strength would depend on the commercial terms offered, and a user looking for that product could be guided toward the point at which the fields are maximized -- or to the area where they could obtain the best deals.
All of this would tend to move more and more Internet information inside the answer model, and since that model would be implemented in the cloud, it would increase the traffic inside the cloud and limit that from user to cloud for exchanges of questions and answers. That wouldn't eliminate the consumption of mobile or wireline data, since video delivery to the user still requires a direct pipe, but it would limit the extent to which new information features would add to access bandwidth consumption and increase intra-cloud traffic and connection needs.
The answer model promoted by IoT would also threaten much of current Internet advertising. If a user never sees a traditional Web page and never runs a traditional search, then where do ads get placed? The owners of the smart agents that collect and correlate data would have preferred relationships with users, and they could elect either to charge for their services or accept ad sponsorship. In the absence of any real incumbents here, Internet advertising would open up to a new group of players or for established companies that aren't over-the-top giants. Big telcos or cable companies could never hope to beat Google at search advertising, but they could beat it at the answer model.
Overall, IoT could really change everything, and that of course is what threatens it. The more revolutionary something is the more enemies it makes and the harder it is to find friends important enough to bear the cost and risk. In my next piece in this series, I'll explore the way that IoT could advance not as a thundering revolution but by jumping from one low apple to the next. I'll close with how IoT will transform our lives for real.
Follow Tom Nolle on Google+!
Tom Nolle on Google+