Systems of discovery: Where cloud, big data and IoT intersect

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Up to this point, it seems each major movement in digital technology is seen as its own separate era. You may have heard people make big proclamations over the last few years like, “This is the cloud era,” or “This is the era of the smart phone,” and “We’re entering an era of big data and advanced analytics.”

But it’s time to stop looking at these as disparate technologies and see them as systems of discovery—where cloud, big data and the internet of things collide. As this occurs, true innovation becomes possible.

According to a recent Gartner study, in 2020, more than 30 billion connected devices will be in use. An IDC study reports that there will be 212 Billion devices or things connected to networks by 2020. Think about the scope of that that for a moment.

It makes me optimistic. I see so much potential when it comes to what we can understand about one another and the world around us.

It also represents a significant business opportunity for large enterprises and startups alike—provided they can manage to stay innovative. McKinsey reports that sized applications of the Internet of Things could have direct economic impact of $2.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion per year in 2025.

But it’s not going to just happen on its own.

How do we get from today—the relative early days of cloud, mobility, wearables and interconnected smart devices—to this hyper-connected world of tomorrow?

This is where systems of discovery come into play.

Evolutions in mobility and cloud have spurred developments in the Internet of Things. Embedded systems and sensors have been around for some time—as have business intelligence and analytics. But these “systems of discovery,” which are at the crossroads of cloud, mobile, data/analytics and embedded sensors, are now allowing the industry to go to the next level with IoT.

Need proof? Look to the venture capitalist (VC) community. Where are they investing their dollars? Mainly two types of startups:

– Startups focused on the “edge,” which is comprised of embedded systems and gateways (connectivity, messaging, security)

– Startups focused on back-end cloud services (data services, analytic services, security services, etc.)

These startups are introducing embedded systems in numerous services that touch our daily life: televisions, refrigerators, trains, traffic lights—even the shoes on your feet can contain a sensor that tracks your movement and provides valuable, usable data.

The cost point for IoT devices and the intelligence that is embedded in them has reached a level where you can do some truly amazing things. The technology has finally reached a point where what used to be the art of the impossible is now becoming the art of the possible.

The mandate is clear for enterprise companies: Evolve or be left behind. Part of this has to do with the creation of an API economy, in which “composable” services provide the opportunity to adapt to changes in the market or technological advancements.

As a developer, it means you can start with one particular technology, and then if a better technology emerges, then you can plug it in under your API structure and the same service can be off and running with an entirely new set of capabilities without delay.

The model is also shifting from a data and analytics perspective. We’ll see a major shift from approaching analytics in batches to applying real-time streaming analytics models. Embedded sensors will enable you to react to what they’re telling you much more quickly than you have in the past.

This data will allow you to discover the right information so you can respond quickly enough with the right insight to make the right business decision in that window of opportunity.

This is such an important shift. But in order to match the rate and pace of changing technology, we have to become more agile:

– Agility in the way we compose services

– Agility in the delivery of services

– Agility in maintaining those services, providing a continuous delivery and continuous operations model

The companies that do that the best in these three areas will succeed in this space. The ones that struggle on the pivot between the old world and the new world will be met with significant challenges.

IBM is supporting this move toward systems of discovery on multiple fronts. Our SoftLayer network is key to supporting IoT, as is the ability to provide dedicated compute/storage (i.e. IaaS), which is ideal for data/analytics.

And sitting on top of the SoftLayer infrastructure is BlueMix, our enterprise-grade PaaS offering. Bluemix gives us a way to provide developers a platform for rapid development and delivery of IoT services.

With these services, along with the rest of the IBM Cloud portfolio, we’re taking systems of discovery from an idyllic notion to tangible reality.

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