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The Internet of Things is exploding, but how are all those things going to work together? Who is in charge of interoperability? And, who do you call when something goes wrong? The entire service and support paradigm changes when products become smart and connected.

In the consumer sector, Gartner is predicting a typical family home in a mature, affluent market could have more than 500 smart devices by 2022.

From media and entertainment, to appliances, to transportation, to security and environmental controls, and healthcare and fitness equipment, the IoT is poised to change everything.

In the 2015 State of the Smart Home Report by iControl Networks, 50% of consumers say they plan to buy at least one smart product in the next year. However, one of the main takeaways from the report is that simplicity and ease-of-use trump technological innovation.

Today’s consumers want devices that solve real, everyday problems. Sixty percent of consumers said they wished their devices did a better job of ‘talking to’ one another and 49% agree that devices not working together cause more stress in their lives.

The key to making it all work together is an Internet of Services

To access IoT opportunities an Internet of Services is key, says Karen McPhillips, Vice President of Marketing at PlumChoice, in an interview with CRNtv.

For instance, consumers really are not interested in a smart thermostat; they really want convenient, efficient temperature control.  Likewise, a smart door lock isn’t the end goal; it’s the fact that it offers a convenient, trusted way to get security. While the things are important, even more important are the services that go along with them.

To truly deliver on the promise of the IoT, device makers need to offer convenience, control, and simplicity. This ranges from product selection to ensuring that all of these “things” work together seamlessly.

McPhillips continues, “While connected gadgets and devices have shelf appeal, providing the services to install, sync, and maintain those devices is crucial to converting SMBs and individual end users to connected solutions. Otherwise, end users are likely to experience frustration, and even return the hardware.”

Interoperability is essential

In a recent white paper on Top Trends in IoT, Parks Associates states, “As consumers adopt more smart devices, interoperability of the devices becomes more important.”

Jessica Groopman of research firm Altimeter Group adds, “The vision is that connectivity between people, processes, and things works no matter what. The reality, however, is that the IoT is fragmented and lacks interoperability.” Groopman explains this fragmentation can manifest as any of the following:

  • Different OEMs: devices or equipment that are not made by the same manufacturer cannot integrate
  • Different OSs: inability to run on the same operating systems
  • Different versions or times of purchase: devices that weren’t made or purchased at the same time
  • Different/incommunicable types of connectors or connectivity frameworks (e.g. devices)
  • Different/inconsistent communication protocol standards (i.e. rules)
  • Lack of programmability needed to connect in the first place

Today, tech giants such as Google, Apple, Microsoft and IBM are working together to solve this issue because it undermines their proprietary assets.

McKinsey cites interoperability of systems as critical to the attainment of up to 40% of the total identified economic value of the Internet of Things. IoT “system mash-ups” could serve not only strategic and tactical decision making, but also operational and real-time decision making as well. McKinsey concludes that across settings, data collection and integration challenges present significant barriers to realizing analytic value.

What about enterprise applications for the IoT?

The connected home has been in the media spotlight, but beyond controlling your home security system and climate control, businesses are also looking to the IoT to drive massive changes.

Manufacturers gain a whole new level of visibility into how their products are used via information collected by sensors and transmitted via the Internet. Real-time monitoring and alerts send notifications for safety and predictive maintenance, while failure analysis data is used to inform product design improvements.

Business Insider reports that the enterprise sector will account for 39% of the roughly 23 billion active IoT devices expected by the year 2019. They believe it will be the largest of the three main IoT markets: enterprise, home, and government.

Industrial companies are early adopters, using the IoT to create new Internet-assisted manufacturing systems. Almost one-fifth of major manufacturing companies already use the IoT to increase production and reduce costs, says the BI report. In addition to manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, and information sectors will also be top investors in IoT systems and devices in the next five years.

The report estimates that spending on enterprise IoT products and services will reach $255 billion globally by 2019, up from $46.2 billion in 2014, representing a 5-year CAGR of 40%.

IoT services in action

A real-life example of IoT services helping to enable the promise of the IoT is Dell Services. Dell Services offers a combination of technology and business expertise to help customers reduce the time, cost and risk required to build innovative IoT applications.

Dell Services believes that with the ever-growing number of smart, connected products and sensors, the true potential of IoT lies in integrating people, systems and things, and developing new innovative applications that disrupt the way industries work.

Photo by Steve Jurvetson on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)