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Cloud Backend: The Chief Concern for IoT Standards?

The Internet of thing is growing at a breathtaking pace. That means connectivity at both home and work will become more and more complex. As the IoT makes computing increasingly complicated, some say we should be concerned primarily with the backend rather than interoperability.

  • Speed of IoT Growth
  • A Jumble of Disconnected Cloud Services
  • The Issue of Interoperability
  • Changing the IoT Standardization Focus to the Backend
  • Cloud that Meets Rigorous Standards

Speed of IoT Growth

The Internet of things is expanding at a rapid rate as enterprises and vendors are becoming more aware of the possibilities presented by this all-inclusive approach to connectivity. The IoT market was forecast last year by IDC to grow at a whopping 16.9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2014 and 2020, rising from $655.8 billion to $1.7 trillion. To put that into perspective, it’s nearly as fast as the growth of public cloud, which is predicted by IDC to achieve a 19.4% CAGR between 2015 and 2019; and keep in mind that much of that public cloud growth will actually be because of the growth of IoT.

To get a little more granular, the bulk of the IoT market will be in IT services, connectivity, and the physical devices. “Together, they are estimated to account for over two-thirds of the worldwide IoT market in 2020, with devices (modules/sensors) alone representing 31.8% of the total,” says IDC. “By 2020, IDC expects that IoT purpose-built platforms, application software, and ‘as a service’ offerings will capture a larger percentage of revenue.”

A Jumble of Disconnected Cloud Services

What does this fast growth mean in the home and in business?

By the end of the decade, the home will have a plethora of appliances backed by virtual private server hosting: from laundry machines to refrigerators to security systems to thermostats to televisions. Of course, our vehicles will be connected too.

Each of these different Internet of things components will interact with their own cloud infrastructure to store and process information, and to get software downloads with new features and security updates. Essentially, we will be wired into a jumble of IT systems that will make our residences as cloud-complex as a large company.

At the same time, computing in the world of business will become increasingly diversified and complicated too. Enterprises will be tasked with monitoring thousands of IoT devices that are transferring gigabytes of information every day. The same as the home, each product will be tied into its own cloud, which means that individual businesses could be connected with hundreds or even thousands of disparate cloud servers.

Clearly the fast growth and increasing complexity needs to be addressed. Let’s look at one argument that our focus should be placed on the backend rather than interoperability.

The Issue of Interoperability

Internet of things author Claire Rowland (Designing Connected Products) says that interoperability is the key to managing the IoT. “Interoperability is about devices and applications and services being able to interact with other devices, applications, and services regardless of the hardware architecture or who made them or what kind of software they run,” she says. In other words, she adds, IoT “can discover and communicate and coordinate with other devices and services, no matter who made them.”

However, interoperability may not be the best tack. While a common approach is needed, some thought-leaders say that the point of focus should instead be on the cloud services – the backend. One of them is David Linthicum of InfoWorld.

Changing the IoT Standardization Focus to the Backend

Linthicum notes that work is already being done to standardize the IoT. The two largest organizations of vendors, AllSeen Alliance and Open Interconnect Consortium, are competing to develop general standards. Probably more players will be making their cases heard as well. Much debate will be had on this issue before standardization is potentially adopted broadly.

However, Linthicum says the focus of these associations is in the wrong direction. “Even when they finally come together, their focus is on interoperability, not on the consolidation of back-end services,” he says. “Although interoperability is a noble objective, we’ll still end up with the same number of cloud services to support these devices, so we’ll continue to deal with IoT complexity.”

Linthicum suggests that it would be wiser to consider ways to standardize how data is formatted and stored, so that the majority of devices can use cloud that is structured and controlled in the same basic way. (There could be IoT-certified cloud services, essentially, perhaps hosting the same standardized open-source platform.)

Clearly there will be concerns with each manufacturer related to privacy, governance, and security. However, Linthicum thinks that once enterprises start to realize how much of a mess the IoT can become, there will be increasing demand for harmony in its cloud backend.

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