Published on November 8th, 2013 | by Xiao Ma


Internet of Things – Start of a New Era?

Random thoughts on IoT and where it may get interesting…

IoT (Internet of Things), the so-called third wave of the world information industry after the computer and the Internet, is a vision of a number of technologies and services that, combined with the huge amounts of available data, will drastically modify the way our societies function at every level.

The Connectivity

IoT (only one of many general definitions from the connectivity viewpoint) refers to the networked interconnection of “things” (everyday objects). Such connectivity can bring all “connectable” things (also including us via some “thing” such as an iPhone) into a widely distributed communication network, and enables the interaction among all “things” – of course most importantly among human beings. The technology that enables the construction of the IoT sensors network has grown far beyond where it first started with RFID, going through a wide range of tech such as NFC, QR codes, GPS, digital watermark, etc. A couple of interesting new(ish) developments worth watching may be around Li-Fi (wireless communication systems using light as a carrier instead of traditional radio frequencies), and 3D printing + Printed Electronics to create electrical devices on various substrates to connect.

The Data

That sensor network acts as a foundation of IoT to enable data collection, so as to achieve “objects linked and the interaction between people and objects”. It has been predicted that by 2020 there will be an increase in the level of digitally identifiable, potentially linked, electronic devices, from 6 billion currently to 50 billion. This throws us into the issue of Big Data, with which we have some experience. However, we have not yet seen the full scale of IoT big data’s “volume”, “variety” and “velocity”, and the manipulation of the potential widely distributed IoT data will be exciting and challenging. Of course, we can’t possibly directly understand or use the huge data collection, but we can ask our computer friends to form a huge intelligence network to help. So maybe linked data?

The Interoperability

If it is linked data, we are in the subject area of interoperability. M2M is a commonly found abbreviation “co-appearing” with IoT. Many articles would consider M2M as Machine to Machine communication, and it is indeed at the heart of the interoperability of IoT. Some places would prefer to use the alternative M2M definitions in three legs – Machine to Machine; Man to Machine and Machine to Man. This takes the interoperability further to how IoT data may influence our decision-making and the complex value of the all connected up systems.

The People

Based on the collection, analysis and transformation of self-generated personalised IoT data, the Machine to Man mutual communication may enable humans to make “smarter” decisions (or different decisions). In this case, can we capture the key factors in the decision-making process and influence it? At a further stage, can we transform / translate / map the currently “silo-ed” IoT data across multiple sources onto a holistically understandable human-oriented system to aid human decision-making?

The Value

IoT’s proliferation and the concurrent dramatic increase in pervasive data are creating disruptive opportunities (such as new services and significant savings) for both research and businesses through leveraging more intelligent systems. There are already initiatives (such as the RCUK-funded H.A.T project) to establish a Multi-Sided-Market-Platform (MSMP) based on collecting IoT- generated primary data on individuals’ consumption, behaviours and interactions and exchange data for future products and services.

Let’s talk

Currently, we are still at the stage of shaping our IoT ideas for the future. At WMG, we have already established a Special Interest Group for IoT as well as an industrial IoT meetup group. We are keen to hear what everyone has to say, so let’s talk via this blog, and through many more channels you will find later …


Xiao Ma is a Senior Research Fellow within the Service Systems Research Group, he also leads the Internet-of-Things Special Interest Group at WMG.

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