How your company should be gearing up for the Internet of Things

As the Internet of Things (IoT) move from a buzzword to new reality, organizations need to take a holistic approach in aligning their software development practices with physical devices. Gartner expects the IoT to lead to 26 billion new connected devices by 2020 and $1.8 trillion in new business value.

We caught up with Mike Walker, an analyst at Gartner, to get a better understanding of what the IoT means for the business at a practical level. How will the rise of the Internet of Things affect software development  in the near future?

Mike Walker: IoT will be one of many related digital technologies that will fundamentally disrupt the enterprise. Shown below is Gartner’s 2015 Top Ten Technologies (see: The Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015 ). Here you will find that this isn’t just a list of technologies, but a well formed analysis of the future landscape. It shows three core themes to emerging technologies going forward:

  • Merging of the physical and virtual worlds
  • Intelligence everywhere
  • The new IT reality

How do you expect the IoT to enter the enterprise?

There will be three primary IoT (and other technologies) entry points into the enterprise. These will include:

  • Customers/employees bring it. Bring your own anything will be the biggest culprit. Expanding from the BYOD wave to wearables, virtual reality, robotics and other consumer oriented technologies.
  • Company strategy will bring it. New business models will and have merged. Two examples of this are in two major segments, the buyer and seller of technology. First on the supplier, this is technology vendors like Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and others. The sellers segment is expected to generate $300 billion in revenue by 2020. Second, organizations like banks, manufactures and healthcare will seize the opportunity to further monetize existing services while creating new ones as well. Progressive is a great example of this with their GPS device program for subscribers which incent safer driving and lower insurance costs.
  • Suppliers will bring it. Suppliers of technology will also continue to strive to obtain closer intimacy with their customers, collect more data and ultimately create new and compelling experiences to attract and retain customers. Companies must be prepared for this.

What does this mean for the business?

For all of these reasons, organizations must leverage Enterprise Architecture (EA) to inform their long- term strategy with more effective planning and investment decision making that balances short term demands with longer-term vision (see: Leveraging Enterprise Architecture to Lead the Enterprise Response to Disruptive Technologies).

Leading EA practitioners will use the Gartner strategic digital disruption framework to understand the impact and the value of IoT along with many other forms of digital disruptions (see: Leveraging Enterprise Architecture to Enable Business Value With Smart Machine Innovations Today ).

What kind of shifts are required in the way people implement IoT applications?

IoT forces enterprise architects to think differently about their organizations architecture approach. Focus shifts from technology to information (see: Best Practices for Successfully Leveraging Enterprise Architecture in Big Data Initiatives). IoT enables the flow of information that is delivered to consumers of the technology solution. Creating a strategy for the company’s information architecture becomes an imperative.

How will the IoT affect the way IT systems are designed?

Three distinct architecture layers emerge and with these new considerations must be taken into account. Below are the architecture layers with the respective consideration enterprise architects must consider.

  • “Things” –This is the new application endpoint. Building enterprise portals were once the answer, that model is quickly shifting to one in which the experience purposeful and the information delivered is of high quality. EA practitioners will need to revisit their skills in the UX area to ensure that solutions architected going forward have durability with encroaching IoT technologies.
  • Gateways – The new architecture type, introduces changes how the enterprise handles integration. New protocols, message exchange patterns and the endless amount of endpoints are new to most enterprises.  Enterprise architects should look past integration but more to interoperability where the experience and business process are put into context with the flow of information.
  • Platforms – While platforms that have a SOA based architecture will most likely continue to do so, they will however have increased load, need to support more fine grained services along with more integration options that traditional web services.

What are some of the best practices for addressing this shift in an efficient and effective manner?

Organizations that have no familiarity are at risk of making poor decisions when selecting tools, architectures and service partners because they won’t know enough to ask the right questions. Therefore, consider the following activities to prepare for IoT projects:

•        Understand the digital landscape. IoT is one of many digital technologies. Organizations should research other related technology disruptions to gain the broader impacts to their organization (see: Research Guide: The Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015).

•        Build an IoT Competency. Create a clear and actionable plan to identify roles, organizational commitments and training needs (see: The Internet of Things Will Demand New Application Architectures, Skills and Tools).

•        Pilot. Experiment and pilot technologies. Remember this isn’t about building production grade solutions, this is about exploring the art of the possible.

•        Ideation. Run workshops, competitions and other ideation exercises to consider what business opportunities might emerge if your current products were smarter and exploited IoT principles (see: Toolkit: EA Identifies Transformational Digital Disruptions Through Strategic Value Assessments).

•        Build a plan. It is critical to understand the gaps and opportunities that IoT poses. Organizations that want to benefit from IoT must create a strategy for the long and short term impacts.