Is the IoT actually becoming workable?

In 2013, I wrote a piece ( discussing the issues that the internet of things (IoT) would bring to the fore, including how the mass chattiness of traffic created by the devices could bring a network to its knees.  In the piece, I recommended that a hub and spoke approach be used to control this.

The idea is that a host of relatively unintelligent devices would all be subservient to a local hub.  That local hub would control security and would also be the first level filter for data, ensuring that only data that needed to move more toward the main centre of the network did so, removing the chattiness at as an early a stage as possible.

The approach would then be hierarchical – multiple hubs would be subservient to more intelligent hubs and so on until a big data analytical centre hub would be there to carry out pattern recognition and complex event processing to optimise the value of the IoT.

At the time, I wrote this from a theoretical point of view – no vendor seemed to be looking at the IoT in this way, and I was very worried that the IoT could find itself discredited at an early stage as those who stood to gain the most from a well architected IoT ran up against the issues of an anything-connected-to-anything network.

So at a recent event, it was refreshing to see that Dell has taken a hub approach to the IoT.  Dell announced that it has set up a dedicated IoT unit, and the availability of its first product, an Intel-based IoT “gateway”, using dual-core processors in a small and hardened form factor.  These devices can then be placed within any environment where IoT devices are creating data, and can act as an intelligent collection and filtering point.

Dell is actively partnering with companies that are in the IoT device space.  One such company is KMC Controls, which is looking to use Dell’s IoT Gateway as a means of enabling it to continue to provide low-cost building monitoring and automation devices while using the centralised standardised data management and security of the IoT Gateway.

Dell’s first IoT Gateway is a generic device coming in at under $500 that users can utilise in current projects or as a device being used in an IoT proof of concept (PoC).  It can run many flavours of Linux or Microsoft’s specialised Windows IoT natively, so allowing IoT applications and functions to be layered on top of the box.  Dell has also teamed up with ThingWorx (a division of PTC) to help customers create and deploy IoT applications that willgive them additional capabilities in achieving their business aims.

As time progresses, Dell will be bringing out more targeted IoT Gateways, with specific operating systems and specific code to deal with defined IoT scenarios.  This will help IoT device vendors and channel to more easily position and sell their offerings.

Overall, this is a good move by Dell and points toward a maturation of thinking in the market.  Whether other vendors step up to the mark is yet to be seen.  However, it will be in everyone’s – including Dell’s – interests for a standardised hub and spoke IoT architecture to be adopted.  This will avoid the IoT getting a bad name as poor architectures bring networks to their knees, and will also accelerate the actual adoption of real, useful IoT.