How to put physical connections to work
Cisco and an Irish tech firm are hoping to lead the next phase of internet evolution
Cisco’s Adam Grennan: “We put sensors on tractors that take soil samples and then send data to the cloud for real-time analysis.”
The “internet of things” is one of those technology concepts, like big data and cloud computing, that was discussed in the research community long before breaking into the commercial world. A phrase coined by MIT’s Kevin Ashton, it describes appliances enabled with sensors and assigned their own IP address that connect to the web – thus creating a world of possibilities.
There’s a widely held view that it will be the next stage of internet evolution that began with computers hooking up the web, accelerated with the advent of mobile devices, and is set to explode with machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity. Although 15 billion devices are connected to the web, 99.4 per cent are not – and that’s where the opportunity lies. Ideas have flourished around health and logistics in particular, with M2M facilitating remote monitoring of everything from patients to vehicles.
Cisco is particularly keen to stake a claim in this new territory, which is unsurprising for a network specialist that has built its business around connectivity.
Having come up with a more expansive phrase – the “internet of everything” (IoE) to encompass people, processes and data as well as things – the US multinational published research that identifies a market it believes will be worth $14.4 trillion (€11 trillion) by 2022.
The idea of connecting toasters and fridges, or closing your living room curtains remotely has met with scepticism, but new examples are starting to suggest real benefits, according to Grennan.
As an example of how scenarios are already changing lives, he cites a US firm that has developed a smart pillbox that shows whether a patient is taking their medication.
Davra Networks, an Irish company and Cisco development partner, is building a business based on M2M communications solutions delivered as a managed service. Chief executive Paul Glynn has been a serial entrepreneur since the 1990s focusing much of his work on network management tools. He says IoE is about to become a game changer because of the size and scope of mobile networks.
“Traditionally networks were about connecting buildings and [were] application driven. Everything else was mobile or too distributed to be connected, but that’s changed with the emergence of 3G and now 4G,” he said.
Buses, trucks, trains, tractors and medical equipment can all become part of wide area networks. Davra Networks has built a cloud management platform to position itself at the centre of this world, capable of connecting tens of millions of devices.
Making the kind of business case that brings big ideas to life, Glynn talks about a project in the US that could save a large food manufacturer $50 million a year.
“We’ve put sensors on tractors that take soil samples and then send data to the cloud for real-time analysis,” he said.