Beyond Big Data: How Search Stands To Simplify IoT Connections
The words “big data” tend to conjure up an image of a flowing fountain of information worth its weight in gold, and in many ways, that’s a fair interpretation. Big data, when applied correctly and efficiently, can provide immeasurable insight into the behaviors of people. However, with respect to IoT, data is far bigger. Indeed, Gartner forecasts that 14.2 billion connected things will be in use by the end of 2019, reaching 25 billion by 2021. But it boils down to more than just the number of things; it’s also about how they operate.
To illustrate my point, imagine the most prolific person using a few devices to record video at a rate of 10 MB per second. As of this year, 4.54 billion people around the world are connected to the internet. A sensor, on the other hand, can easily generate 30 MB per second. That means that even if every single user currently connected to the internet was to generate content at their maximum potential rate, they could still never catch up to the amount of combined data output from sensors. With less than 1% of the users generating half of the social media content, we are easily talking about 1,000 times more data. And I believe this ratio is steadily growing.
Therefore, when it comes to the Internet of Things, the term “big” feels like an injustice. Humongous or colossal data seems to be a more suitable term.
Uncorking the Bandwidth Bottleneck
The inevitable bandwidth problem sensors will generate cannot be solved just with 5G technology that provides 1.25GB/s upload speed; that only translates to roughly 42 of our sensors. On the other hand, the fastest single-channel fiber optic could handle around 4,000 sensors (a realistic amount for a factory-like structure). So, a feasible way to solve the bandwidth bottleneck problem is with hierarchical edge computing, where data must be filtered and aggregated at each level of the local network to make it manageable before it reaches the cloud.
Bandwidth is Only the Beginning
Bandwidth limitations aside, the lack of standards on device compatibility and functionality presents a more challenging problem. To solve it requires a search and discovery layer to help humans and devices find what other devices can do. For humans, most connected things will have listening and speaking capabilities, so I predict that voice will be the dominant mode of interaction. Other devices armed with video cameras and screens will incorporate visual capabilities, making search and discovery both ubiquitous and seamless.
The Future of IoT Search
Up until now, big data has perhaps meant more to businesses than it has directly to the aggregate whole. IoT-connected devices stand to bridge the divide between the two. For example, in the future, a smartwatch won’t just be able to set reminders, count steps and monitor sleep patterns. It will be able to communicate with your home appliances, connect to your car, interact with your neighborhood and help in emergency situations.
Recently during a collaboration session, my colleague, Kerstin Recker, Head of Strategy, and I predicted that each step a person takes will soon become traceable, trackable, predictable and applicable in practical situations. Here are a few examples of what the future may hold.
- Rise and Shine. You wake up to a friendly greeting from your conversational assistant. As you brush your teeth, your smart bathroom mirror-screen plays your custom news feed according to your search history and preset choices. As you head to the kitchen for breakfast, your smart refrigerator searches for recipes made from the ingredients inside. Upon starting your car, your automotive assistant announces how many miles you have left in your tank and offers to begin your most frequently played music.
- Family Reunion. You and your sister decide to plan a holiday adventure. You ask your conversational assistant to check your sister’s calendar and select available dates. Based on your location and purchase history, your assistant scans top airlines and hotel rates in cities you have never been to. According to past vacation experiences, your assistant recalls historical data and uses it to recommend similar attractions for you to visit.
- Good Samaritan. On your way home from your afternoon jog, you use your connected device to pre-order a protein smoothie at your favorite post-workout juice bar. Suddenly the person in front of you stumbles to the ground with a sprained ankle. While the stranger’s device sends a signal out to local emergency services, you use your device to download tips on how to handle this type of injury. When the EMTs arrive, the stranger’s device transmits a detailed medical history thanks to the smart sensors in the ambulance.
Collaboration and Connectivity
In many ways the IoT makes us feel closer to a science fiction-based reality than ever before. IoT search represents a map to help us navigate through this new galaxy of information at our fingertips. But before businesses reap the rewards from all the insight IoT search stands to provide, they need to learn to play nice together.
The current lack of open-source standard IoT technology means devices from different companies can’t communicate with each other. Not only does this result in bias from duplicate data, but customers are boxed into one choice for all their devices and without agreed-upon standards, they become susceptible to security threats. Once companies agree on how to overcome these challenges, individuals will meld with the world around them forming a symbiotic relationship between humanity and the digital universe, creating endless possibilities.
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com on February 7, 2020.