App Developers in Highly Connected IoT World Must Take New Tack

NEWS ANALYSIS: Developers building apps for the Internet of things must first consider connectivity issues concerning a vast network of devices.

IoT apps

The Internet of things (IoT) requires developers to view the world differently than they typically have. The key differentiator is connectivity. With potentially billions of devices connected over the Internet, developers must first look at the issue of connectivity before anything else.

IDC defines the Internet of things as networks of uniquely identifiable endpoints (or "things") that communicate without human interaction by using IP connectivity, either locally or globally. IDC's view of the IoT ecosystem includes intelligent systems, network equipment, connectivity services, data integration, and often other types of software, applications, services and security.

The worldwide IoT market will show a compound annual growth rate of 13 percent from $1.3 trillion in 2013 to $3.04 trillion in 2020, according to IDC predictions. By 2020, there will be as many as 28 billion autonomous IoT devices installed. Today, there are about 9 billion installed.

Yet, these are still considered early days for IoT, with many viewing today's environment as an educational phase for IoT.

"The most fundamental piece of the equation that everybody has to deal with is how do you capture information flowing from a connected thing and then be able to use that connection to the thing to be able to either build an application around the data it produces or build a remote app that might interact with that thing," said Michael Curry, vice president for IBM's WebSphere Foundation Portfolio. "So the most fundamental piece is the connectivity to that device. You have to have a connection from the thing into the cloud. Once you have the device connected, a lot of the programming that goes on around that is traditional programming," Curry continued.

An early mover in the IoT space, IBM in October launched a set of digital tools and software-as-a-service offerings that it said would change the Internet of things landscape by enabling a developer to build an IoT application in a few minutes. IBM built its cloud-based service based on the thousands of IoT client engagements the company has undertaken.

The new service, called the IBM Internet of Things Foundation, enables a developer to quickly and easily extend an Internet-connected device, such as a chip, sensor or controller into the cloud; build an application alongside the device to collect the data; and send real-time insights back to the developer's business, IBM said.

Not only does this provide the ability to extract data from the rising number of devices across an enterprise, but it physically brings different parts of the business together to innovate and build new business and revenue models.

SilverHook Powerboats uses the IoT Foundation service within IBM's Bluemix cloud platform as the basis for its real-time powerboat telemetrics platform, allowing it to run complex diagnostic analytics in real time on racing boats traveling at high speeds on the ocean, according to Nigel Hook, CEO of cognitive computing specialist DataSkill and a professional offshore powerboat racer who also is co-founder of SilverHook Powerboats.

"The ocean can be a brutal environment, and it's the platform that DataSkill and SilverHook Powerboats chose to prove out their IBM solutions for intelligently predicting performance and reliability while on the ocean race track at 140 mph," Hook said.

Development of the IoT apps related to the powerboats could have been done in other ways using other platforms, but it would have taken much more time and money, Hook said.

"The catalyst in all of this has been Bluemix," Hook told eWEEK. "With Bluemix, you can develop this technology very quickly. You don't have to buy all this different software and integrate it. With Bluemix, everything is all readily available to the code writer. You don't have to wait for IT to provision resources."

Bluemix, as the name implies, is an amalgamation of all of IBM's software. "What we're doing is we're taking all of our software capabilities and remixing them in the cloud in a way that makes them composable so that companies can take advantage of all of our capabilities in a new way for these types of apps," Curry said. "So we're using our analytics technologies in Bluemix, we're using our mobile application development and runtime technologies in Bluemix, we're using our integration, messaging, cognitive and security technologies.

"A company can take advantage of all of this without having to go through the traditional acquisition of different pieces and integrating all of that together. We've done all that for them and made it available in a scalable, elastic cloud environment," he continued.