The Internet of Things: Evolving and Extensive

John Gertsakis - Manager, Communications and Outreach

Internet of Things and its context

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a wide-reaching term with depth and diversity which is gathering momentum as it demonstrates its industrial, social and environmental relevance. The sum of IoT is much more than embedded sensors, networks and gadgets. It is the driving force behind the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Coined by UK innovator, technology pioneer, brand manager and RFID expert, Kevin Ashton, the concept of IoT was born out of his interest in how wireless networks could be used to allow physical objects to communicate. It was very much about data and potential services as opposed to just a coherent gathering of products with sensors. Operational efficiency, asset utilisation, customer experience and faster decision-making, are all part of the mix. Ashton’s definition of IoT is illuminating:

“The Internet of Things means sensors connected to the Internet and behaving in an Internet-like way: making open, ad-hoc connections, sharing data freely, allowing unexpected applications, and creating a nervous system for the planet that enables computers to understand the things in the world around them.”

As a network of connected devices IoT collects, shares and analyses data in real time and this is where the value resides i.e. how the data is used to deliver services that can be monetised or build competitive advantage. Many in business, government and academia say it will catalyse a major shift in where, how and when technology appears in our lives, albeit in a sometimes seamless and virtual manner.

At a macro level IoT refers to devices connected and communicating over the internet with each other and with us. Indeed it simultaneously builds on Machine to Machine (M2M) communications and the cloud to maximise connectivity with purpose. Gartner’s definition is clear:

“The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.”

It’s not a new concept, and has been discussed since the Internet was born, however its current trajectory goes beyond principles and concepts and is coalescing into diverse practical applications which many say will transform our lives across multiple sectors, industries and activities. Ray Owen, Managing Director - Nokia Oceania, underscores the magnitude:

“5G is the next generation of radio systems and network architecture that will enable significant new use cases, new business opportunities and new ways for people to benefit from communications.”

Gartner forecasted that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. In 2016, 5.5 million new things will get connected every day. And these figures date back to 2015.

“Gartner estimates that the Internet of Things (IoT) will support total services spending of $235 billion in 2016, up 22 percent from 2015. Services are dominated by the professional category (in which businesses contract with external providers in order to design, install and operate IoT systems), however connectivity services (through communications service providers) and consumer services will grow at a faster pace.”

The projections associated with IoT are both voluminous and extensive. Indeed the figures around economic value are so large that they seem beyond reality, however there are numerous credible pundits, corporates and institutions that are increasingly on the same page in terms of economic benefit.
More than an internet connected fridge

We have heard of internet-connected appliances and fridges that re-order depleting supplies or warn against use-by dates. And we have probably experienced tech savvy friends and colleagues who remotely activate domestic lighting, heating and cooling before arriving home, but the IoT is much more than novel electronics.

Importantly, IoT is rapidly evolving into a much more pervasive and positive ecosystem with an extensive taxonomy of applications. From autonomous vehicles, hyper-efficient logistics and smart cities, through to remote area healthcare, natural resources monitoring and production line optimisation, IoT has the potential to deliver wide-reaching social, economic and environment benefits. Sensible planning and evaluation will also be required to ensure that impacts and issues are known, managed and addressed. Security and privacy are obvious areas being worked on.

The reach and applications of IoT remain significant and cross-sectoral with research, implementation and speculation by various entities indicating that no sector will be left untouched by IoT.  Intel, Cisco, Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research, HP-Aruba, and our own IoT Alliance Australia, tell a compelling story of sectors and industries that will benefit.

Ericsson note that we are on the brink of the networked society; by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices. Operators and businesses who play a role in creating those connections and extracting their potential value, will capture the benefits of this tremendous opportunity.

Intel talk about smart manufacturing, smart building, smart homes and smart transport, where IoT will take a stronghold, while Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research see healthcare, wearables, oil and gas, as well as industrial applications as key areas of activity.  

Andrew Penn, Telstra’s Chief Executive also highlights key attributes and future possibilities:

“The step up to 5G will mean more speed, but 5G is much more than just faster speeds. It will also underpin the coming of age of the Internet of Things, billions of connected devices that will enable a fully connected and interactive world, which includes new possibilities in areas such as fully connected homes, offices and factories, autonomous vehicles and remote health care.”

There is no shortage of specific examples to be distilled from these areas, from autonomous vehicles and drones through to systems for monitoring oyster farms, water quality and rainfall related yield.

5G and its impact on IoT innovations will spawn applications that add value through high utility and functional benefit. The range of products and services will be diverse and transform industries, communities and sectors:

  • Industrial applications: sensors and systems that automate production, improve workplace safety and maximise energy productivity.
  • Vehicles and mobility: use of sensors and collision avoidance capabilities to improve safety, efficiency and emergency responsiveness.
  • Transport and logistics: allowing vehicles to communicate with each other and infrastructure to allow fleet tracking, emissions reduction and improved road safety.
  • Emergency services and public safety: sensors and video technology to monitor and manage major events, traffic safety and allow improved emergency responsiveness.
  • Healthcare: high speed video technology allowing improved connectivity to conduct diagnosis and treatment.
  • Smart cities and homes: sensors and systems that assist with navigation, finding services and facilities, monitoring outages, as well as maximising energy and waster efficiency in managing urban assets and facilities.
  • Agriculture and mining: monitoring of livestock, cropping and weather conditions to optimise use of water, fertilisers and pesticides; use of driverless vehicles in mining.
  • Energy and environment: smart grids that improve energy efficiency; real-time monitoring of air and water quality; sensors in waste collection and recycling bins to improve resource recovery performance smart grids for energy efficiency.

The role of mobile telecommunications – introducing 5G

5G is the next generation of mobile technologies, services and applications set to transform the way we live and work in  Australia. 5G mobile networks and services will deliver faster speeds and more responsive networks with greater capacity and lower latency (reduced network latency).

5G will enable and accelerate signifiant innovations related to the IoT including driverless vehicles, smart homes, smart cities and highly automated industrial processes.

Of course mobile telecommunications providers are an essential stakeholder and will continue to be pivotal in how IoT develops and expands. Whether through handheld devices or the necessary network infrastructure, the mobile telecommunications industry will provide key enabling aspects of the ‘nervous system’ through which data can flow and activate the billions of connected devices that will be the Internet of Things.

Planning and implementation of 5G will deliver step-change network performance that will further stimulate new IoT applications. Therefore AMTA members will be front and centre on several fronts delivering real-world IoT outcomes that create a sustainable digital future.

Carriers, vendors, handset manufacturers and various affiliates have the the capabilities at every stage to see the mainstreaming of IoT in Australia across the entire system, from identifying the need and service through specifying technologies and operating models.

In many respects, the future promulgation of IoT in Australia will depend heavily on the products, services, systems and networks supplied by AMTA members, which also highlights the critical importance of partnerships in achieving the desired outcome.

Internet of Things Alliance Australia

As expected for a nation known for rapid uptake and quick adoption of technology, Australia has it’s own peak body focused on IoT and its advocacy. The IoT Alliance Australia (IoTAA) exists to empower industry to grow Australia's competitive advantage through IoT.

More specifically it’s purpose and existence is to accelerate IoT innovation and adoption by:

  • Activating and supporting collaboration across industry, government, research and communities;
  • Promoting enabling, evidence-based policy and regulation; and
  • Identifying strategic opportunities for economic growth and social benefit.

IoTAA’s work is framed by the need to drive sound, evidence based input from industry into appropriate policy and regulation for IoT in Australia; as well as recognise, understand and drive the national growth strategy underpinned by IoT enabling technologies, across key sectors of the Australian economy where Australia enjoys a competitive advantage. Also noted is the emphasis they place on the promotion of collaboration at all levels including between industry and Government, across the SME community, start-ups and investors, between service providers and problem/opportunity owners.

The Alliance was created in 2015 under the auspices  of Communications Alliance, and has since became a separate not-for-profit entity hosted by the University of Technology Sydney. Its members are diverse and drawn from various sectors, industries and institutions including IoT service providers, vendors, consultants and suppliers as well as business, universities, government and consumer groups.

Frank Zeichner is the CEO and co-founder of the Alliance, which is governed by a Board led by Gavin Smith, President and Chairman of Bosch Australia, and advised by an Executive Council Chaired, Mr John Stanton, CEO of Communications Alliance. AMTA is a member of the Council and represented by Chris Althaus, AMTA CEO.

The rubber hits the road through specific projects and research under the six IoTAA workstreams:

  • Collaboration: To develop a coherent, collaborative and globally-aware Australian IoT community with industry, government and other key stakeholders to foster innovation, inform appropriate policy and regulatory settings.
  • Smart industries and cities: Creating and developing sectoral IoT advancement and alignment with key sectors, including through government industry growth centre activities, Infrastructure Australia, state governments and key sectoral bodies with an initial focus on water and energy resource management, food and agribusiness, transport and Smart Cities.
  • Data use, access and privacy:  Develop IoT open data and data sharing principles and guidelines with a possible sectoral focus. In conjunction, develop data privacy guidelines for use of IoT data.
  • Spectrum availability and licensing:  Develop spectrum-related knowledge and settings to maximise IoT opportunities in Australia and work with industry and government to seek to ensure optimum spectrum arrangements and licensing frameworks are in place.
  • Cyber security and network resilience: To develop security guidelines for IoT service elements, including data protection.
  • IoT start-up innovation:  Develop policy and IoT eco-system frameworks in support of a national IoT program, supporting the start-up community which is linked to industry growth centres.

IoTAA also conducts and promotes workshops, lectures and seminars, and is a repository for relevant publications and information resources. For more information, visit the IoTAA website.

It becomes evident that there is an immense level of research, design, development and investment being channeled into IoT related products, services and infrastructure. With the approach of 5G and the support of government with timely and enabling policies, Australia can look forward to widespread uptake of IoT by industry, government and the public.

Furthermore, the mobile telecommunications industry will continue to work proactively to empower end-users while also directly contributing to sustainable economic growth in a measured and responsible manner through the evolution of mobile telecommunications – particularly the 4 / 5G partnership.

AMTA will continue to work with its members throughout the journey and help ensure that the necessary policy settings, regulations and standards are conducive to the required investment and implementation.

18 May 2017




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