The Internet of Things, being on the bleeding edge of technology, opens a lot of questions for people. It can feel ambiguous – a “thing” in IoT can really be anything. It can be ominous – people will tell you that IoT will bring innovation that can sink your company, so you better start now. It can be difficult to approach – how do you start your first IoT project when nobody in your organization has the first-hand experience?
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, here’s the key point to remember – IoT is only emerging now because of the other technology around it that has matured. IoT isn’t about the hardware or the devices, it’s about what that hardware and those devices can provide. The software that makes IoT projects valuable is built from things that have a high level of maturity – cloud, data capture, analytics, and mobile / web applications. The great majority of what an IoT project brings isn’t new; it’s just repurposed.
IoT doesn’t generate much value if there is no back-end system that devices connect to. IoT only demands that those back-end systems should be scalable, which makes cloud the clear candidate for hosting. Additionally, many public cloud offerings (Azure, AWS, BlueMix, and others) have platform-as-a-service and software-as-a-service offerings specifically focused on building IoT solutions. Those services are packaged in a way that makes them easy to understand and work with, which is the purpose of PaaS and SaaS after all!
Data Capture and Analytics
Projects in the Internet of Things are often about data collection and aggregation, and sometimes lots of it. In that situation, your back-end systems should capture and store data that the IoT devices are gathering, and your project’s focus should be about extracting value from that data. That same concept has existed in enterprise applications for a long time in the form of data management and business intelligence and can serve as a starting point for proofs of concept or small projects.
On top of the classic thought around relational databases and standard BI analytics is newer thought on concepts like big data and more robust analytics. IoT projects can quickly become big data projects, so knowing how to work with big data can definitely be an advantage.
Mobile and Web Development
Typical of most enterprise applications, you need a way for users or customers to consume and interact with data from IoT devices. This is done no differently than any other project. Data coming in should be stored in a data repository, which is nothing new, and sending information back to the devices is as easy as calling an API with modern cloud offerings. Mobile and web front-ends really don’t have to change for IoT solutions – it’s the same as they always have been.
The hardware component is what defines a project as an IoT project. It is important to note though that the hardware is just one component of an enterprise-grade application. IoT projects may seem foreign or out of reach, but when you pull back the curtain, there really isn’t much that’s unique to an IoT project. Such projects are approachable, they are doable, and they’re certainly nothing to be intimidated of.