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IoT


The Internet of Things: A Take on a Taxonomy

The Internet of Things (IoT) is hot. Red hot. It feels like most of the headlines in the various industry pubs are all about the Internet of Things. It’s going to be huge! It is huge! It will be huger! Billions of things connected, trillions of dollars of value! Why hasn’t your organization done anything yet?

IoT is definitely 2015’s hype cycle darling (again). But let’s face it, that’s because all this hype underlines a real truth. IoT is happening and it has significant potential. We may not be able to predict its total effect with certainty but we do know the impact will not be small. One thing is clear: It is advancing quickly and your organization should be discussing how it matters to your success now and in the future.

There are challenges and questions with IoT. The first question many are grappling with is basic: What is the Internet of Things and what is the best way to understand it? In the first part of this series we will define the Internet of Things and provide an overview of useful ways to break it down.

One thing is clear: It is advancing quickly and your organization should be discussing how it matters to your success now and in the future.

There is no shortage of definitions for IoT but I’m partial to McKinsey’s view, laid out in their recent 2015 IoT report, that it is essentially the distributed network of sensors and actuators that are connected to computer systems. More importantly if intentional human input is required that is not the IoT. The automatic and autonomous nature of the components is a defining aspect of IoT. That’s an important distinction as it eliminates many smartphone-oriented mobile applications but also helps us to understand how the wearable movement fits into this ecosystem. That does not mean human interaction is not part of the IoT, but it is not required. Other definitions put a qualifier on the IoT that data must be generated and shared from the device for analysis by another party — computer, human, etc. — in order to be considered as part of the IoT. And all of this activity is both intertwined and adjacent to the same network the human Internet accesses. This has implications for performance, scalability and security.

From our perspective, your organization should not be worried about specific definitions in the IoT space. Why? Because the Internet of Things is more of a concept than a specific product or service. As a result a true definition is hard to agree upon. The debate about what constitutes the IoT at the granulate level is long-running and unlikely to be productive. Rather, to understand the IoT we suggest looking through the lens of taxonomy. Taking a taxonomic approach helps get to the core concerns and patterns. A quick search around the Web will reveal a variety of models and diagrams on this topic. None are necessarily right or wrong, and many are particularly effective in casting the new wave of technology in a workable model. Let’s discuss a few of the best ones out there:

ID Tech Ex

A great piece about understanding the relative opportunity of the IoT market. For our taxonomy purposes their breakdown is useful in distinguishing the human web (or Internet of People) from the Internet of Things but also valuable is separating the Internet of Things into those objects with an IP address and those without an IP address. Thinking of it from this perspective can help an organization to understand how a subset of technology can be applied in different contexts. As a bonus, this piece also outlines the various component levels required to implement (IC, device, etc.) and the relative size of each of the markets, although from an infographic perspective it is unclear how those elements fit the message. http://www.idtechex.com/internet-of-things-usa/conference.asp

Thinking of it from this perspective can help an organization to understand how a subset of technology can be applied in different contexts.

O’Reilly

The focus of this piece from O’Reilly is how IoT will affect or disrupt business models. Their breakdown on page 6 is a great distillation of the IoT universe into a set of business models combined with technical concepts rather than a focus solely on specific layers or technologies. Starting from the business model angle makes a lot of sense if your organization is trying to strategize an approach. Otherwise you risk either creating a solution looking for a problem or spending too much time in the minutiae without progress towards real business goals. http://www.oreilly.com/iot/free/what-is-the-internet-of-things.csp

Starting from the business model angle makes a lot of sense if your organization is trying to strategize an approach.

McKinsey

In McKinsey’s take IoT is primarily about settings and from that context the other applications and benefits are created. Technically this isn’t really a taxonomy but considering the setting for the implementation is a hugely important aspect of understanding where your organization might fit into this world. http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/businesstechnology/theinternetofthingsthevalueofdigitizingthephysical_world

Cisco

Cisco has been at the forefront of the Internet of Things for a long time. This blog and accompanying reference model do a great job of breaking the implementation side of the IoT into digestible pieces. I found this model particularly valuable with the perspective of Edge to Center. This taxonomy is really transferable to the majority of settings or contexts that your organization might need to consider as part of it’s IoT strategy and is helpful to understand what needs to be in place to implement a connected object. http://blogs.cisco.com/ioe/the-internet-of-things-capturing-the-accelerated-opportunity


There are a number of other IoT models, taxonomies or breakdowns out there (and likely more in the works). This reflects the breadth and variability of the IoT. One size does not fit all and using a variety of models in concert is a good way to get a window into this world to gain insight into how your organization might invest now to avoid playing catchup (or worse) later.

For instance, starting with understanding the settings (from the McKinsey model) and then transitioning to the O’Reilly bustiness model/technical approach overlay could help your team understand not just where the opportunity is but also what aspects of your business model and approach might be affected by an investment in a connected product offering. With that established, Cisco’s taxonomy gives a high-level view of what your organization needs to build, procure or partner for in order to have a successful implementation in the world of IoT.

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