If you ever make it out to an IoT conference and look at the speaking agenda, you will invariably find at least a couple of panels or keynotes that will discuss the impending boom of the IoT. I’ve been in the industry for enough time that I no longer ask when that boom is coming, but when we’re actually going to stop talking about it. The fact is, the overused “hockey stick” term has become quite passé (and even I, being from Canada, love hockey). It’s time for the marketplace as a whole to start talking about the growth that is happening; no longer the growth that will happen.
So, let’s start fresh here and put the future in the past. We all know there are going to be a lot of devices that make their way online. Done.
The topic that we should be discussing is how our infrastructure will need to be designed to support the long-term viability of those gazillions of devices. We’re so excited to flood the IoT with all kinds of things that we tend to overlook the ability of technologies to support those things.
When it comes down to it, we really should be talking about one critical question: how are our networks going to be able to handle all of these things?
Up to this point, all of the fanning of flames around the growth that’s quickly coming at us is just something that analysts use to draw in eyeballs. The fact is that our connected infrastructure is like a fire that starts to grow in size only to have a network sunset or new standard come along to throw a nice big bucket of water on those growing flames.
Times are changing and technologies have emerged that give priority to this blaze of IoT growth. This is critical to the boom that has been forecasted for years. Now, solution developers can put business plans in place that will have maturity dates of more than just a couple of years.
So, now that those technologies are budding, it’s time to ask the right questions. Those questions are centered on capacity, coverage, and longevity.
Many new technologies, while dedicated to machines, do not have the ability to support more than just a couple thousand devices per access point. This is a big problem when we’re talking about a flood of connected things. It’s critical that the industry start looking a little closer at the capacity component.
When it comes to coverage, the things that make up the IoT are not always where people are. That’s what makes the IoT so valuable: remote devices can be where people don’t have to be. Coverage, especially around cellular-based technologies, is often designed and built for people. The IoT needs affordable coverage in all kinds of places.
Lastly, as an industry we need to shift the conversation to network longevity. This is that bucket of water that keeps on dashing the flames of IoT growth. It should be part of the conversation every time a solution provider evaluates a network technology. How long is that technology going to be around? If history is any indicator, most cellular standards only last a handful of years. This isn’t going to cut it as the world becomes more and more connected.
So, let’s put away the hockey sticks for a season and just focus on the things that will get us there.