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Getting connected with the Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things is creating a more connected society with new devices entering the market, which promise to make our homes smarter and everyday tasks simpler. There is, however, still a lot of confusion about how the IoT works at this early stage and how the market will develop.

Matthew Hunt, CEO at Apadmi Enterprise, the enterprise app development division of mobile app developer, Apadmi, looks at what businesses should focus on when developing solutions for the IoT market, including how issues of security can be addressed.

The IoT is quite a broad subject - it has the potential to head in a whole host of directions and presents an innovative change in technology.

In the past, interest has been largely associated with developments in smartphones and tablets when it came to connectivity and communication. But with the growth of the IoT, we now have the ability to interact with our environment in endless ways.

We are already doing it now in small ways that we may not actually realise. For example, with home heating systems such as Hive, you can turn your heating on from anywhere in the world and sound systems and TVs are both becoming connected devices. It’s now become a land grab exercise, where the innovators are out there working out what propositions they can put together and what services they can offer around this technology.

Simplicity means success

When it comes to developing product ideas for the IoT, simplicity will be the key to its success. Even in the early stages of development, it is clear to see the potential opportunities that it will present when it comes to creating a more connected culture.

Having said this, creating solutions and products, at this point, that are too complex is likely lead to a low level of adoption. Developers need to come up with technology that is easy to use and can simply be plugged in without the need for complicated installation processes.

This type of technology has the greatest chance of success as anything that requires a complex level of integration, or service engineers to install or support it, will struggle.

Developing for the homes of today

The IoT is an extremely useful concept – but it needs to have the right application. For example, creating tech for tech’s sake is always a bad idea as new products and services need to have a clear purpose to ensure that people will actually adopt them.

Developers should be asking themselves ‘how can I make money from that service and why should people adopt this?’ In fact, there is a lot of talk about “homes of the future” but it’s unlikely that the way we live will change dramatically in the near future. For this reason, technology needs to be developed that can fit in with the present day and will be useful additions to homes now.

The idea of light bulbs that you can control from your phone doesn’t sound particularly useful, for instance. This might be a novel touch when trying to impress at a dinner party, however for me, I don’t really see the value in adopting this. Having said that, the ability to monitor your house whilst you are not there is quite an exciting concept and presents a range of useful functions - including everything from security through to controlling your home’s heating system.

Addressing the issue of security

As with the many recent advances in technology, such as Apple Pay and the launch of new wearable devices, the issue of security is something that needs to be addressed. There is a lot of uncertainty about how secure the IoT network is as we are constantly reminded that the more technology we use, the more open we are to higher risks of being hacked.

In order to overcome fears and address concerns, there needs to be a greater level of engagement and communication between developers and their consumers. Educating customers on how the technology works, the benefits it will bring to their lives and what data will be collected will help to alleviate any fears that they may have.

There should also be guidance and standards put in place to set out how to develop secure technology. This should be made available to consumers in order for them to be assured that they are purchasing products that adhere to the standards.

The whole IoT community needs to come together and decide on what these guidelines should be, especially OfCom considering it is the communications regulator. It is well positioned to create a regulatory environment and would provide an important voice to the debate.

So what’s next?

We are entering into an exciting period when it comes to new technology and as so many new devices continue to emerge, there is so much potential for simple everyday tasks to be changed forever.

There is no doubt that society is becoming more connected and there is definitely a market for the IoT. But as previously mentioned, simplicity and the way that technology is applied is crucial to its success. Developers need to be focusing on what they can offer consumers now and how they can enhance society today.

And concerns about privacy and security need to be dealt with, as a matter of urgency, so that customers feel comfortable using the technology, otherwise adoption will be unlikely.