Dr. Friedemann Mattern, Professor of Distributed Systems at ETH Zurich.
Last year, Software AG formed a Scientific Advisory Board to provide it with a scientific perspective on trends – and potential trends - in technology. In this series of blogs, we highlight each Scientific Advisory Board member’s area of expertise and some of his views for the future.
Today, we feature Dr. Friedemann Mattern.
“The Internet of Things (IoT) represents the logical next step in Internet evolution. Up to now, the Internet has been all about networking. But, deach of the past decades has brought its own revolutionary and far-reaching developments as part of ongoing technological progress.
First were the efforts to network computers among themselves, back in the 1980s. The 1990s followed with the online networking of documents and content by means of the web, hyperlinks and graphic browsers.
The 2000s enabled the networking of people with web services and social networking platforms via Web 2.0 and smartphones. Finally, the current decade is characterized by the incorporation of physical Things in the Internet ecosystem.
With this evolution, digital transformation has introduced brand-new opportunities—as well as challenges—for business and society. The consequences of this development will first become evident and measurable in the next few years or even decades.
Two features of Internet-related things are of direct economic relevance.
1. First, these 'smart' things—whether they are simple everyday items or expensive machines—generate valuable data about their usage context.
2. Second, they have access to the knowledge and services in the web and therefore offer their users added value that can go far beyond the traditional physical use of the object. They function as an interface to automated services that can represent actual added value and a source of revenue.
While diverse business scenarios and models are already being developed, and in some cases tested, for the feature mentioned first—the technologies of cloud computing as well as machine learning and data analytics for huge data volumes arrived just in time. The potential of smart objects as touch points, bringing customers into contact with suitable services and business-relevant processes, is just starting to be researched and is not well developed economically. There is a wide array of opportunities available here.
The latter applies in particular to the business-to-business (B2B) sector. Consumer applications currently dominate the IoT scenarios being discussed (e.g., fitness armbands, smart toys or smart home components), but the more relevant segment of the IoT value add lies in B2B over the medium-term.
IoT technology represents a key component of Industry 4.0. In areas such as industrial manufacturing, logistics, the construction industry as well as hospitals, it can help minimize errors, improve safety and boost efficiency and productivity both directly and indirectly.
Since B2B involves significantly higher figures than simple consumer scenarios, the general requirements for the security of IoT technology itself - as well as quality attributes such as reliability, robustness, remote serviceability and if necessary real-time capability - are much greater.
A fair amount of research and development work still needs to be done to enable large-scale B2B scenarios; technology variations and cross-industry standards that enable a broad linking of different systems also need to be developed further.
Even if we still need to do a bit of 'homework,' the diverse opportunities associated with IoT should spur us on to begin building suitable platforms and gaining valuable experience together. The future begins now for the IoT B2B sector!”