Jan Höller: “We actually have the technology to solve the problems”
13 Jan 2017 IoT General
A few months ago we asked Jan Höller, an IoT expert, a Research Fellow at Ericsson and the co-author of the book "From Machine-to-Machine to the Internet of Things: Introduction to a New Age of Intelligence", to give us a comprehensive review of how M2M solutions are being adapted to an IoT world. We are now continuing the transcription of this fascinating interview. In it, Höller provides us with a viewpoint on IoT applications across industries, as well as various other issues that are driving the evolution of the technologies around it.
In the previous article, Höller explained the differences between IoT and M2M, as well as their implications. This time we will continue to talk about other topics of keen interest in the industry.
Addressing the “megatrends”
According to the book, “a megatrend is a pattern or trend that will have a fundamental and global impact on society at a macro level over several generations”, i.e. a significant impact on the world in the future. Some megatrends will have significant implications for IoT. Höller notes that the combined sociotechnological factors driving the evolution towards the Internet of Things ecosystems can be summarized to two main megatrends. The first is an increased need to understand the physical environment in its various forms, from industrial installations to public spaces to consumer demands. This will typically be fuelled by a quest for the maximization of efficiency, specific sustainability objectives, and care for health and safety. The second is scientific advances and improvements in technology, primarily: in ubuiquitous and affordable networking; cost-effective embedded computing and sensing; and capabilities in analysis of data, i.e. Machine Intelligence.
Energy in the IoT future
From a business standpoint, there are a number of needs that drive the adoption and growth of IoT. One of them is energy and its production, distribution and consumption. Energy limitations affect everything at a global level, including industries, the world economy and society at large. Energy resources are increasingly scarce and diverse, prompting the need for new and more efficient solutions regarding distribution and consumption, he explains. For instance, in Europe, about one third of energy goes into the transport sector, and buildings account for 40% of the energy demand. One can say that the attractiveness of electricity as an energy carrier is steadily increasing wether we are talking transport or buildings. Future vehichle charging and eMobility, and controlling energy consumption in buildings in a much more efficient way require smart solutions to achieve the big potential savings.
Moreover, with the introduction of energy renewables such as solar panels and wind power, we will see the increase of small-scale energy production involving many actors and where we face millions of energy consumer as well as producers. To be able to manage energy efficiently with respect to supply and demand with so many different energy end-points, we need to deal with a massive amount of data and information to manage the totality. . "The introduction of new energy sources will require new measurement, control and distribution systems on the electrical grid", Jan Höller says to explain the new need that has appeared with the advent of new and different systems of energy production. IoT allows us to deal with an incredible amount of information in real time, including the weather, the local situation and the status of generators and appliances. It also allows you to control these systems instantaneously, which enables you to react to any situation immediately. This is necessary to adapt real-time energy distribution to real needs and availability at any given time. IoT plays a crucial role in all of this because it allows us to gather data and control the infrastructure remotely and to do it in an automated fashion. " IoT is definitely a key ICT enabler in the energy ecosystems for efficient energy management".
Overcoming the limitations
As we see an ever increasing pace of technological development, technical limitations of the past are correspondingly getting closer to be overcome. As the authors note, thanks to the lower cost of components and use of state-of-the-art software, nowadays we can develop affordable and effective solutions. But each particular case is different in various ways. "For instance, a specific application dictates the particular needs from the standpoint of communication", says Höller. "We need a toolbox to meet all these needs. Of course, these tools will include a many of types of connectivity, like 4G and 5G combined with short range technologies like IEEE 802.15.4, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, all depending on the application at hand. How can we extend the coverage? How can we efficiently manage device interoperability? How can we reduce costs and lower chip complexity?"
Höller concludes that "at the same time as the societal megatrends provide challenges, technology is becoming available to our rescue”. You can produce miniaturised sensors that are very, very cheap. You can basically put a tiny web server in almost any object today for less than one euro," he says. “We also have the tools to massively extract and analyse large amounts of data and draw complex conclusions from them, and the Machine Intelligence capabilities are becoming available for fully autonomous systems. So, it is fortunate that as we face these global challenges, we actually have the technology to solve the problems."
Is IoT already mature?
Although technology seems to be on our side, Jan Höller points out several important issues regarding the maturity and penetration of the technologies associated with IoT. In his opinion, we are still in an intermediate stage of technology evolution. "We are in the middle of our IoT development, taking into account the standards we have, the state of the art and web technology. We are rapidly moving away from proprietary industrial solutions designed specifically for certain problems. Right now we are about to have solved the connectivity problem, i.e. having the right technologies depending on needs such as performance and cost. We are also rapidly consolidating technologies for IoT devices, thus removing the technology fragmentation that has been a plague to date. These device technologies include state-of-the-art and consolidated software frameworks, security and privacy and means to solve interoperability across the stack.” Although many of these solutions are emerging as we speak, Höller explains, it will still take a few years for broader penetration into larger deployments even though it has already started.