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The first step to joining the IoT ecosystem

Product Manager IoT Division - Connected Products, IBM

To me, the terms “getting liquid” or “getting more liquid” have always meant trading assets for cash. Cash is easily exchanged for goods and services, and what’s important is you can do it quickly. Market liquidity is a financial phrase that describes the possibility of converting an asset to cash within a short period of time with minimal transaction costs while not affecting the price integrity of the asset itself.

http://www.ibmbigdatahub.com/sites/default/files/blog_iot1ststep_blog.jpgSo what does “liquification of the physical world” mean?

As stated in The Economy of Things: Extracting new value from the Internet of Things, “From real estate to trucking to farming, many industries lack the ability to easily represent all their information digitally and to provide an integrated marketplace in which to build liquid transactions. Once products and assets leave the controlled environment of warehouses, factories and offices, it has traditionally been difficult to digitally represent their identity or status. Without that, it is challenging to create a liquid, digital marketplace for the asset, product or service.

“The Internet of Things (IoT) is now poised to bring the same real-time information and liquid marketplaces by enabling searching, managing and monetizing assets in the physical world. That won’t just mean smart homes that light up when you arrive or washing machines that text you when the cycle is done. The IoT will turn physical assets into participants in real-time global digital markets.

“We call this the ‘liquification of the physical world.’ Assets around us will become as easily indexed, searched and traded as any online commodity. The Internet of Things will become the Economy of Things.”

When I read articles about the IoT being a bubble or being overhyped, I read Veena Pureswaran’s IBV reports and am reminded of what the IoT is really about at its core. It is the abstraction of previously cost-prohibitive data, detected by cost-effective sensors that signal an event through ubiquitous wireless connectivity to cheap gateway servers (thanks, Moore’s law) up to the cloud for deep real-time analysis.

What’s new about the IoT? Not much; things have just gotten faster, cheaper and easier. All these forces have finally opened the door for industries that once lacked the ability to “represent all their information digitally” to now do so.

I may make the IoT concept seem simple—“just put a chip in everything and get going”—but I’ve observed that the device makers have yet to discover what a good implementation should look like, and what parts they need to build to get there. Organizations are struggling with where to start in their pursuit of liquifying their physical world.

IBM is working hard to get projects off the ground through the IBM Bluemix platform, and we’ll continue to work toward the goal of making entry into IoT as simple as possible. In addition, the ARM mbed platform has set a great example by taking leadership in the IoT space, making it easy for developers to focus on IoT applications while still reducing cost and time to market.

For those not familiar with mbed, it’s a combination of client and server software—consisting of a lightweight OS for devices, the mbed OS—and the matching server software to interact with it, the mbed device server. These are intended as building blocks for finished products, the idea being that a developer can take mbed components and build application logic on top of a solid software stack, all provided by ARM. ARM essentially has taken care of the hard parts that accompany an IoT project prototype, leaving developers to do what they do best: create applications around a use case.

Give mbed a look, and while you’re at it, read about the IBM and ARM IoT starter kit; I ordered mine a month ago and found out they’re on back order until late August!

My hope is companies like ARM and IBM continue to work toward making IoT easier, considering everyone in this growing ecosystem. We need to plan for the hobbyist working in a garage and the large enterprise—if everyone is allowed to participate, the IoT will flourish like we all hope it will.

Any additional suggestions on how to start an IoT project? I’d be interested in hearing some feedback in the comments section—or connect with me @peter_ryans. Thanks!