The Internet of Things: What’s Possible vs. What’s Practical

by   |   August 6, 2014 5:30 am   |   0 Comments

Don DeLoach The Internet of Things: What’s Possible vs. What’s Practical

Don DeLoach, President and CEO, Infobright

You wake up to your alarm clock that let you sleep an extra 10 minutes because it sensed that the weather was good and traffic was light. You dress, have breakfast, and head to work in your driverless car that selects the optimal route. It drops you in front of your building, then finds the best available metered space and informs you of its status, even though it will pick you up in front of the building after work. The payment to the city for the meter is made automatically as well.

This is clearly a picture of the world of the Internet of Things. Everything mentioned is possible, technologically, today. The problem some of these advances face is practicality.

If the technology is proven to work in a laboratory environment, and you know it works, that makes it “possible.” But what does “practical” really mean? Fundamentally, it means that the resources required to make these capabilities available to the mainstream are reasonable from most anybody’s standards. And by resources, it means personal resources (money), organizational resources (money and people), and/or public and governmental resources (money, people, and infrastructure). Let’s take a closer look at the IoT-based technological advances discussed above.

Adaptive Alarm Clock

The adaptive alarm clock does indeed exist today. Examples include the Android-based Traffic Alarm Clock and the Quirky Nimbus Dashboard. Some clocks monitor traffic or your sleep patterns and wake you in “an ideal state.” If you are lucky, perhaps your ideal state will coincide with when you need to get ready for work! This advancement doesn’t require a prohibitive amount of money. It is readily available on common technology. It works, practically, today.

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Driverless Cars

We all have heard about Google’s driverless car, so we know it can be done. But, from a practical standpoint, they aren’t available yet because the infrastructure is not in place. For driverless cars to work in the mainstream, all the other cars need to be broadcasting their presence as well. The roads need to “understand” that there are driverless cars. And security needs to go beyond preventing thieves from breaking into the physical car. Security also must protect against hackers, who might want to hack the car’s software and take control of the vehicle for any number of reasons, including theft, attacks, and misuse of infrastructure resources by hacking outbound signals (like broadcasting that you are an emergency vehicle to part traffic).

Today’s cars have lots of technology built into them. From the seat vibrating on the right or left when you wander out of your lane, to parallel parking, to avoiding collisions with something in front of or behind the car, the technology is getting more sophisticated and more affordable. It is now practical to have a car with a high level of automation, including navigation assistance, driving assistance, parking assistance, and other nice features. We are just not at the driverless stage yet, practically speaking.

Smart Parking Meters

Smart parking meters are here today, in all of their practical glory. They not only take credit cards, but many offer payment options from a smart-phone app in lieu of any cards at all. Some change the rates during the day based on supply and demand. Others change rates based on how much pollution your car emits. Electric cars park free. Smart parking meters are possible and practical, and in use today in cities from San Francisco to Austin, from Madrid to San Diego.

The possible versus practical discussion extends in so many ways. Most analysts and large companies in the space seem to agree that the scale of devices and data are going to grow exponentially. We have already seen the explosion of big data, but the projections make today’s big data seem tiny. In very real terms, if you needed to ingest and store tens or hundreds or even thousands petabytes of data in multiple locations around the world and then make sense of that data in the context of operational analytics, investigative analytics, and predictive analytics, it would be possible to do that today. It would be possible if you had enough computing hardware, enough disk, enough network bandwidth, and, more importantly, enough people (as well as the money that goes with 100-times or 1,000-times the computing, disk, bandwidth, and people). And while possible, this is just not practical, at least right now. A combination of advances in hardware, software, bandwidth, and corresponding architecture is needed for this to become practical in terms of time, money, and resources to deal with this level of scale.

These advances are happening today. They likely will continue to happen at an increasing rate. But the Holy Grail is not simply to make something possible, but also to make it practical. The Internet of Things is here today but continues to transition from the possible to the practical.

Don DeLoach is CEO and president of Infobright. Don has more than 25 years of software industry experience, with demonstrated success building software companies with extensive sales, marketing, and international experience. Don joined Infobright after serving as CEO of Aleri, the complex event processing company, which was acquired by Sybase in February 2010. Prior to Aleri, Don served as President and CEO of YOUcentric, a CRM software company, where he led the growth of the company’s revenue from $2.8M to $25M in three years, before being acquired by JD Edwards. Don also spent five years in senior sales management culminating in the role of Vice President of North American Geographic Sales, Telesales, Channels, and Field Marketing. He has also served as a Director at Broadbeam Corporation and Apropos Inc.

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