The Intelligent Internet of Things

Stephen DeAngelis

October 23, 2017

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been heralded as the future of business and has been criticized for some glaring shortcomings. Francisco Maroto (@fmarotob), CEO and founder at OIES Consulting, notes Gartner’s 2016 Hype Curve doesn’t even mention the Internet of Things because it has fallen into Gartner’s “dreaded Trough of Disillusionment.”[1] He believes Gartner’s assessment of the IoT is “corroborated [by] many pessimistic articles of IoT project failures.” Although Maroto is discouraged about the current state of things, he believes the IoT will play an important role in future. He insists we are still in the IoT 1.0 phase — its infancy. He asserts we must still go through IoT 2.0 (its childhood), and IoT 3.0 (its adolescence), before reaching IoT 4.0 (its fully mature state).

The Maturation of the Internet of Things

Maroto insists, “IoT 1.0 is still the one that holds the largest number of devices connected so far. Simple solutions for departmental, very controlled business needs, designed without security as a priority and not easy to integrate and of course with the objective of creating new business models.” Unfortunately, IoT 1.0 is giving the concept a bad name primarily because of a lack of standardization and security. Maroto indicates some companies have moved into the IoT 2.0 phase. He writes, “IoT 2.0 was the natural next step in the technology adoption curve and brought in a new wave of IoT-facilitated solutions that still have not demonstrated a higher rate of adoption and return on investment.” He cites a Harvard Business Review article by Scott A. Nelson and Paul Metaxatos in which they write, “This evolution to ‘Internet of Things (IoT) 2.0’ will be difficult for many companies to achieve — not for lack of technological expertise but because they’ll fail to recognize the value of design in connected product development.”[2]

Maroto indicates companies will start seeing a proper ROI on IoT investments once phase 3.0 is achieved. “IoT 3.0 is the bridge from things to humans, whether they be your customers, partners, suppliers, or employees to drive measurable outcomes and ROI.” He points to an article by Omar Otero in which Otero asserts Robotic Process Automation will be an important characteristic of IoT 3.0. Otero writes, “The ability of robotic process automation (RPA) to enhance back office, repetitive tasks via automation makes the platform a prime candidate for inclusion in the Internet of Things.”[3] Maroto indicates the mature stage of the IoT — IoT 4.0 — will only be achieved once cognitive computing becomes an integral part of the IoT ecosystem. He explains: “IoT 4.0, which is already emerging, will add machine learning and artificial capabilities to the value chain to make experiences truly seamless and part of everyday life. The sheer volume of data from IoT 3.0 will be a rich source to power IoT 4.0, using AI to make the connected chain truly intelligent. Most of the robots, machines, equipment, devices and countless objects that have been designed, built and sold to the heat of the IoT have focused the functional and technical requirements in reducing the costs of connectivity, increase battery life, provide end security (here not so much) and usability, but not in the capacity of self-learning or provide artificial intelligence.”

Cognitive Computing and the Intelligent Internet of Things

Karina Popova (@kary_key), System Engineer Lead at LINK Mobility GmbH, writes, “Artificial intelligence is functionally necessary to bring the huge number of sensor devices online. And it definitely will be even more important in making sense of data streamed in from these devices to support the IoT revolution.”[4] She continues:

“Data is most valuable to us when it can trigger an action. It means that we should collect and analyze data immediately to maintain a continuous flow of information. Basically, it is one of our main processes, which leads the IoT revolution. … At some point, the internet of things will become the biggest source of data on the planet. And the IoT revolution can let the machines point out where the opportunities truly are. We can see how information technologies drive the transformation from old-style systems to highly intelligent applications and services. To identify previously known or new patterns immediately, it is necessary to provide real-time data collection. However, finding the ways to perform this with the data and information that all these devices create is still a big problem. Artificial intelligence has reached the point now where it can provide invaluable assistance in speeding up tasks still performed by people.”

There seems to be some discrepancy about how quickly the Internet of Things will mature. Maroto believes most organizations remain in the IoT 1.0 phase but Patrick Nelson (@Patnet) reports analysts from Frost & Sullivan believe many companies will enter the IoT 4.0 phase in the very near future. He writes, “Connected devices, also known as the Internet of Things (IoT), will transition to cognitive, predictive computing over the next 12 to 18 months, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan.”[5] He adds, “Cognitive computing, which is when a machine is programmed to simulate human thought processes, will partly drive that growth, along with further microelectronics development and ‘ubiquitous connectivity,’ says Frost & Sullivan, a research and consulting firm that specializes in business disruption. We are about to shift to the ‘use of artificial intelligence to transform smart devices,’ the firm says.” I agree cognitive computing technology has matured enough to become a part of the IoT ecosystem. I question whether other parts of the ecosystem are as ready. Maroto certainly believes a lot of maturation still needs to be accomplished. Frost & Sullivan analysts, however, are looking beyond IoT 4.0 to IoT 5.0, which involves “sentient tools.” Nelson explains:

“It won’t just be predictive or cognitive AI that rolls in over the top of IoT. [In the future,] cognitive computing wrapped into the IoT will be augmented by sentient tools, the firm says. Sentient computing adds perceptions, awareness and even feelings to machines. If this prediction of IoT forking to more sentient functions is correct, we will see sensors perceiving their environments and acting accordingly. IoT could become mindful of location and social situations. That’s a step beyond a device or a platform’s backend merely thinking like a human. Experts say sentient tools will be the next leap for computational systems overall, anyway.”

The direction the Internet of Things is traveling is fairly obvious. How fast it will travel down that vector remains an open question. Popova concludes, “The internet of things is the data flowing between devices. To be able to find needles in this haystack, you need artificial intelligence. In [the future], artificial intelligence will be an essential part of any IoT system and move the IoT revolution to a new level.” Maroto adds, “We are very far [off from] IoT 4.0. Today most objects are unconnected; only a few connected objects are intelligent, enterprises continue working on silos, government services are inefficient, interoperability is a chimera, robots do not have their protocols and social networks, humans are still limiting the promises of IoT. The Internet of Things promises to be a source of great benefits to our lives, but it will definitely take more time than expected.”

[1] Francisco Maroto, “How Long Do We Have to Wait for the Internet of Things 4.0?” Datafloq, 13 September 2017.
[2] Scott A. Nelson and Paul Metaxatos, “The Internet of Things Needs Design, Not Just Technology,” Harvard Business Review, 29 April 2017.
[3] Omar Otero, “Internet of Things 3.0 scaled by RPA,” LinkedIn, 27 June 2017.
[4] Karina Popova, “The role of artificial intelligence in the IoT revolution,” IoT Agenda, 21 September 2017.
[5] Patrick Nelson, “Connected IoT is about to become cognitive IoT,” Network World, 30 August 2017.