Mindset shift is required when implementing IoT business models
that use the “Virtual World of Avatars”.

I was fascinated by the “Virtual World of Avatars” created by the Internet of Things that a professor described during a lecture when I was undertaking a professional education program from MIT on IoT earlier this year. The scenario that he described was a simple one, a person driving his car to his home. The person has an avatar in the cloud, the car has its own avatar and so does the home with all its components such as the lights and the garage door. All the things that the person interacts with in real life are replicated in the cloud and connected through the internet. And we can have a simple application in this scenario – the car should tell the home when the person is nearby and the home should turn on the lights if it is dark.

By connecting things from the physical world to the cloud and abstracting them in the virtual world, we can program a number of rules in the cloud layer that dictate the actions that can be taken in the physical world. And by combining data from related ecosystems and by performing advanced analytics in this virtual world, we can enrich the decision-making process for more complex scenarios.

Whether an IoT application is simple or complex, combining the virtual world with physical objects requires careful considerations with respect to IoT architecture, technologies and collaborations between partners from different sectors and domains.

From an architecture perspective, we still have a cobweb of things with different devices with different communications protocols, different bridges and controllers patching systems and lots of rules that are baked in and difficult to change once implemented. The desired architecture should offer simple design constructs, standardized interfaces for reuse and reconfiguration and an appropriate level of abstraction and modularity. It is critical to get the architecture right for your IoT applications as “undoing” is never easy and security is a challenge that must be addressed appropriately.

Next, the task of choosing the right technologies for your IoT application is equally daunting. One technology decision would invariably be around the network connectivity for IoT. As we know one size does not fit all, so the best network for you would depend upon the application you are building. Second technology decision will be about data collection and processing. IoT applications will need to address the power, bandwidth and storage limitations when collecting data, account for missing and noisy data, and identify and manage data anomalies. Once the data has been collected in the cloud, there is a range of tools available today for performing the analytics. Another technology decision will be around security, which is still quite hard for IoT. You will need to determine your threat matrix before deciding on which tools will be able to manage your security threats. These are just three of various technology decisions that would need to be made for your IoT application.

IoT has evolved from a concept built around communication protocols and devices to a multidisciplinary domain where devices, internet technology and people get together to create a complete ecosystem for innovation and potentially disruption. Careful considerations need to be given when creating an IoT solution to ensure that collaborations and interactions between partners from related sectors and domains are facilitated and directed towards the business outcomes desired from your IoT solution.

Finally, the challenge for IoT stakeholders and the ecosystem is to create value for your customers and your business. The value differs for each key stakeholder: your customers may perceive value as better products and services or improving their life or bringing them new experiences. The business perceive value by return on investments through cost savings, revenue growth or increased operating efficiencies. Your partners will perceive value as direct or indirect impact the solution will have on their business priorities. And then there is value in terms of public goods which becomes important for solutions such as the Smart Cities.

We need to be ready for a significant mindset shift in terms of the architecture, technologies, collaborations and value as we work towards creating a successful IoT based business model.