Start unlocking tomorrow’s IoT today
In ways both obvious and subtle, technology is transforming the way we live, work and play. While some innovations have become so familiar to us — asking Siri about the weather, clicking on ads based on previous purchases — that we no longer remember a time when they weren’t part of our reality, we’re still learning about the value and influence of others.
By Alaa Bawab, GM of Lenovo Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG), Middle East & Africa
Welcome to the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Internet of Senses (IoS). They’ve been around for a while, yes, but it’s possible you’re only just starting to realise how much potential they have to change your world.
IoT and IoS in practice
As a network of connected devices that communicate between one another and with the cloud, IoT is all about bringing people, places and skills closer together. Combine this with immersive feedback mechanisms that engage our senses, and you enter the realm of IoS.
Looking for an example of IoT? Digital twins demonstrate its benefits.
Digital twins use sophisticated networks of sensors to create astonishingly detailed replicas of real-world ecosystems. They can be found in anything from transport and utility infrastructure to entire cities, individual machines to full facilities, and specific human organs to the whole human body.
Urban planners use digital twins to model the impact of internal and external changes on infrastructure and communities, and to help with development planning and optimisations. In the medical world, they help doctors to accurately assess the impact of diseases and other stressors on the body. And in businesses that use complex machinery, they’re used to identify when components need replacing, which helps to reduce risks and unplanned downtime.
In terms of IoS, one of its best applications is the tactile internet. This allows experiences to be transmitted through touch, either for the benefit of a remote human operator, or to enable automated machinery to understand and respond to its surroundings better. The tactile internet equips doctors performing remote surgery, or engineers carrying out remote repairs, to wear gloves that transmit their actions to the robots performing the work and give them tactile feedback in real time.
What does this mean for you?
Looking ahead, it’s likely that IoT and IoS will depend more and more on high-speed connectivity; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; robotics; haptics; and increasingly sophisticated sensors. All of this headline-grabbing tech, of course, must be underpinned by robust foundations, including high-end servers, storage, networks and virtualisation technology.
If you’re looking for opportunities to leverage IoT and IoS, here are some issues to bear in mind as you build or implement your chosen technology.
* Edge computing – Ultra-fast connectivity isn’t available everywhere — and South Africa is a prime example. Outside of the country’s main cities, many areas are beset by poor infrastructure and weak connectivity. Given how important low latency is in certain IoT and IoS applications, you will likely need to provide computing and storage infrastructure very close to your users. This means either on-site, or at the network edge. When developing or choosing your platform, consider whether it offers the flexibility to deploy in different places. How versatile are these options? Do you need a rack, or will a shelf or even a wall suffice? Could it be attached to a mast or a tree? Will your tech be used in harsh environments (think of the South African sun, sand and storms), and if so, are there rugged versions, capable of withstanding extreme conditions?
* Freedom to scale on-demand – The generation of vast amounts of data is inextricably linked to IoT, and means that you’ll need large amounts of computing and storage space. This is partly to hold and use the data your business produces and gathers on a business-as-usual basis, and to enable new initiatives to be trialled and scaled up quickly in response to emerging opportunities. Make sure the technology you use is easily scalable and flexible, wherever in the world you need it.
* Essential simplicity – You’ve hired bright people, and you want them focussed on innovating, not on managing ever-more complex technological ecosystems. It’s therefore essential that your future tech platforms are simple to deploy and straightforward to manage. Can your fully distributed ecosystem be managed centrally, without relying on on-site expertise at every location? This is an important feature to bear in mind.
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