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Book review: The Future of IoT

This book review comes courtesy of serial entrepreneur Charles Paumelle. Charles’ latest venture is Microshare.io, a software business focused on the data management and governance requirements created by the explosion in the Internet of Things (IoT). We could think of no one better to review this book!

The Future of IoT: Leveraging the Shift to a Data Centric World, by Don Deloach, Emil Berthelsen, and Wael Elrifai (self-published, July 2017) offers an in-depth look at a dramatic shift currently happening in the Western World. The Internet of Things (IoT) is most simply described as the network of ‘things’ (smart phones, home appliances, plumbing systems, or roads… to name only a fraction) that are connected to the Internet via sensors or software of some description. The Internet of Things refers to the ability for all the information created by these things (traffic patterns, maintenance requirements, call details) to be captured and used. If you’re confused by the concept – don’t worry – you are not alone. And because the potential of IoT is so vast – and so many applications not yet conceived of, it is very difficult to talk about the concept in its entirety.

I picked up this book on the spur of the moment and am very glad I did. The book captures the essence of IoT and communicates it in the most clear and concise way I’ve yet come across.

The shift that the authors address is best illustrated by a personal example: I have been using my personal FitBit device for a while to track my activity. The information is transmitted from the FitBit device, to my personal app on my phone, and I have allowed a number of friends to see my data too – so we can encourage each other. Recently, I have also chosen to give my insurance company access to my Fitbit data in return for perks generated by my positive behaviour (regular exercise). Slowly but surely, I am increasingly making decisions about this new information (data) I am generating, who I choose to share it with and why but I want to keep control of that data.

Today, there are millions of companies starting to generate and use new data in a similar way to me. There are lots and lots of product suppliers (like Fitibit but for the entreprise market) building individual solutions, for very niche markets, to help companies collect important data, for their own use (for example, connected leak detection systems sold to insurance companies or remote waste level sensors for facilities management providers).

The shift these authors describe is one where we all think beyond our personal or business use and look at how the data we capture might be useful to other people and companies, therefore generating additional value from that same data (the authors use the term “utility value”).

For example: a municipality may gather data on the use of its parking lots, in order to monitor current requirements in the community, make decisions about pricing, future development etc. Today, that municipality can very easily share that data with the public in real time, in order to increase the chances that they will find a parking spot. The result is a happier ‘customer’ and the cost is relatively low.

Some of the biggest issues in relation to sharing all that data are compliance, regulation and data protection. The authors tackle this subject head-on – and provide an elegant concept they’ve called ‘first receiver’.  The idea is that the first receiver of the information decides what to do with it. They can either share it with a named source, or publish it, and allow other people to ‘subscribe’ to it (as in the case of the parking space example above). Critically, the information collected must be handled responsibly. For example, sharing data about the number of parking spots available might be fine, whereas sharing video footage of cars going in and out of specific parking lots might not.

Anyone trying to build an IoT strategy or the infrastructure to support it would benefit from reading this book. The only downsides are that the case studies get a little repetitive and the fact that the authors focus primarily on cellular (i.e. 3G/4G) and local IoT networks (Wifi/Bluetooth/ZigBee, etc.) It’s a rather technical point, but they have overlooked the massive development of low-powered wide area networks (LoRa, Sigfox, WMBus) that are emerging, particularly in Europe. If you are looking at the IoT ecosystem, it’s a pretty big oversight.

Despite the negatives, I highly recommend this book. It was a very pleasant surprise and reassuring valudation of my current business, which is always a bonus!

 

 

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