4 Key Requirements to Scale the Internet of Things

Published in Cisco Blog on Apr 15, 2014

Today the Internet of Things (IoT) is everywhere: you can easily see smart meters on houses, parking sensors in the ground, cameras attached to traffic posts, and people wearing intelligent wristband and glasses — all of them connected to the Internet. And this is only the tip of the iceberg: while you are reading this blog post factories, trains and trucks around the world are also being connected to the Internet.

Many traditional industries have historically requested help from different types of engineers to improve their processes and gain efficiency. Now they are asking us, the Internet engineers, to contribute solving new industrial world challenges by connecting billions of new devices.

The more ambitious part of this journey is the integration between both worlds: Information Technology (IT) and Operation Technology (OT). For that a systems approach is required to scale the existing Internet infrastructure to accommodate IoT use cases, while making IT technology easy to adopt for OT operators. We are facing a historical opportunity to convergence massive scale systems in a way we have never seen before, and such an effort will unlock a multibillion-dollar business.

Scaling IoT

In order to be ready to capture this opportunity and scale in a sustainable manner, four requirements are necessary:

1.  Infrastructure Simplification: Existing Internet infrastructure was originally designed to connect computers, phones, printers, servers and more recently mobile devices mainly operated by users. However, today we are experiencing a tremendous growth not only in the number of devices but also in terms of types of devices, traffic, protocols and locations. These new devices require low bandwidth and run without direct human intervention. Consequently the cost per bits or per user is no longer the only metric, and the infrastructure needs to be redesigned to reduce cost and complexity. This level of flexibility can be achieved by virtualizing and opening up the infrastructure and making it programmable with Cisco Open Network Environment (ONE), which makes it possible to orchestrate services across server, storage, network, and security domains, and provide better service by automating manual tasks, such as configuration and provisioning.

2.  Build Software-Based Agility Functions: Deliver new, richer applications and services faster by optimizing the infrastructure with app-centricity and analytics to quickly introduce new capabilities. Keep applications running at peak performance by enabling the infrastructure to automatically detect, and adapt to, application demands and flows, so that it can react to changing conditions and potential issues before they create problems.

3.  Holistic Security: Ability to automatically detect and remedy threats is required to enable improved security and compliance in IoT environments. As we built trust models into the E-commerce, these new capabilities need to be combined with access control, context awareness, content inspection, application visibility and threat prevention.

4.  Easy to Adopt: In any major technology transition in the past, the adoption curve was driven mainly by fast convergence of standards. Today Cisco’s IoT gateways support a very complete IPv6 protocol stack that ensures interoperability across equipment from different vendors. However, the wide diversity of IoT solutions requires even more flexible model where legacy interfaces and protocols can be fully integrated. Cisco IOx offers an open distributed computing platform that is able to scale the IoT to every single scenario, which mean every industry will successfully transition the new era of Internet.

In order to achieve sustainable growth of Internet of Things a systems approach is needed. While in some deployments the scale will mean just adding new connections, in most cases the integration of a legacy system in our current Internet infrastructure will determine our ability to grow. For that we will have to converge by making our infrastructure more elastic, agile and secure, but also by making the technology easy to adopt. By using a hybrid approach where the Internet first meets the extended physical world, we will be able successfully to contribute to solving current world engineering challenges.

For additional information check out my presentation on Scaling the Internet of Things (IoT) at IoT & WSN conference in Europe on Apr 1st, 2014. Also feel free to comment about scalability challenges your organization may be facing in the Internet of Things.

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The Internet of Things (IoT)

Published in El Mundo Newspaper on February 12, 2014

Recently in Silicon Valley the Internet of Things has become trendy. The term the Internet of Thing (IoT) has its roots in the famous Auto-ID Center at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and refers to the Internet connection of sensors, vehicles, machines , and all kinds of objects. These connections allow maintenance and improve safety in cities, houses, shops, factories, utilities and transportation infrastructures saving time, money and even lives. Imagine a system that adjust timing traffic lights depending on who is crossing the street, a house that learn the habits of its inhabitants and optimizes temperature. The power grid will notify you when is cheaper to turn on washing machine or the insurance company will offer a discount for driving responsibly and activate frequently your home alarm system.

Big companies based in Silicon Valley already offer products for the Internet of Things such as Cisco Systems, Intel , Oracle and more recently Google after Nest acquisition. For the part of the Internet of Things that deals with smart cities, Spain has achieved international internet of thingsrecognition through innovative projects such as Santander, Barcelona and Malaga. While large companies such as Endesa and Telefonica and global leading IoT projects or Machine -to -Machine (M2M ) and other small are becoming known as Libelium , Carriots or Urban-M, an startup incubated in Malaga Bolt accelerator that is about to launch a smart bike with more than 50 sensors that interact with the city.

According to Gartner, in 2020 the number of objects connected to the Internet will be 26 billion. This represents 30 times the 900 million objects connected in 2009 (this number doesn’t include 7,000 million smartphones, tablets and laptops that is estimated for 2020). The Internet of Things will have an extraordinary impact on our lives and economies. 2020 is expected to furnish itself a value of $2.6 trillion to the global economy.urban-m

To understand these data and what is coming suffice to stop and observe what has brought into our lives the Internet we know today : in 2009 a global Internet economy generated $2.2 trillion, 2.9% of GDP according to a study from McKinsey . The report noted that if Internet consume and spending were a sector of the economy it would be greater than agriculture or energy. According to eMarketer, in 2012 30% of the Spanish population spent an average of $1300 per person shopping in Internet, which mean 2% of total purchases. Although Spain is the European country with the highest growth in online shopping, it is still far from the 13% in the UK according to Forrester. Moreover social networks have transformed the way we communicate and socialize at a speed and scale never seen before.

Undoubtedly Internet is a technological revolution that contributes to economic growth, productivity and employment. As in 1990 still was not clear how the Internet would affect us, now in 2014 the same process is happening for the Internet of Things. In Silicon Valley thousands of entrepreneurs have already begun to shape the new economy based on the interconnection of objects and analysis of data generate to improve decision making.

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Winning the Beer Game with The Internet of Things (IoT)

Published in Cisco Blog on Dec 10, 2013

Supply Chain Management (SCM) has always been critical to business operations and success. Executives in large corporations remember lessons from their SCM courses back in business school. For those who have forgotten, consulting companies and universities teach SCM using well-known games such as the Beer Distribution Game. The problem the Beer Distribution Game highlights is the lack of insight people along the distribution chain have beyond a few steps.  However, I’d posit that the Internet of Things (IoT) provides us the opportunity to holistically visualize and play with our entire supply chain.  In effect, IoT may make the Beer Distribution Game a relic of the past.

Beer Distribution Game!

The Beer Distribution Game is a role-player table game created by Jay Forrester at MIT Sloan School of Management in the early 1960s to teach principles of management science. The game is played by teams who simulate the supply chain of the beer industry during 40 weeks. Each team represents a brand and the goal is to meet customer demand. Each player represents a specific area of the supply chain: retail, wholesale, distributor and factory. Within each team players cannot communicate each other and information is only passed through orders and shipments notes every week. The winner of the game is the team with lower total cost of capital employed in stock for everyone in the supply chain while avoiding out-of-stock situations.

The most frequent problem during the game is accumulating excessive inventory due to the bullwhip effect – small changes in customer demand can result in large variation in orders placed upstream. Anyone can play this game from business school students to top supply chain executives. However the results are similar: once the game concludes, factory players who often accumulate 600+ stock units cannot believe that during the last 35 cycles the end customer demand remained completely constant with 4 units per week.

The purpose of the game is to illustrate the key principle that structure produces behavior, a concept from System Dynamics. Structural and communicative dysfunctions in many organizations that deal with material flows, stocks and time delays are responsible for high operational costs and market failure.

If downstream agents of the chain don’t receive the data about consumer behavior in real time, they cannot adjust production.

The good news is that today advanced information technologies; such as wireless sensor networks, mobile embedded systems, telemetry and ubiquitous computing can be connected to ‘things’ across the entire supply chain (beer taps, distribution trucks, warehouses, factory control rooms, offices, etc…) creating an automated system able to seamlessly adjust offer to demand.

Cisco Systems and its partner ecosystems provide the technologies that help organizations to migrate from forecast-driven supply chains to real-time information-driven supply chains.

According to a Forrester Consulting survey, 53% of enterprises from industries where SCM is critical are planning to implement IoT solutions within the next 24 months.

The majority of IT decision makers are turning to IoT solutions to provide more visibility in the supply chain, reduce carbon emissions, improve customer interactions, and ultimately minimize operational expenses to be more competitive.

——— And now, interviews with two companies making IoT a reality for businesses! ——

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