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IoT Markets: let’s get real about the numbers

IoT Markets: let’s get real about the numbers
by John Moor on 01-20-2016 at 4:00 pm

I am not sure about you but whenever I see those big market forecasts for IoT (and I’ve seen a lot)… my brain takes a short cut to “ok, I get it, it’s big”. And I believe it will be. But is “it’s big” that helpful? Or, to put it another way, does it hurt?

Robin Duke-Woolley of Beecham Research
thinks it does and has recently been on a mission to try and bring some sanity back to the numbers. He says, “let’s get real about the numbers… $trillions of new dollars is ridiculous – it’s a habit to exaggerate the numbers to get the headlines… it is not realistic… so let’s be rational here”.

“It’s very large, but not monstrous”
Why is he saying this? Is he jockeying for position? Maybe, but perhaps more importantly he feels it distracts us from doing the things we need to do to develop the market(s). Yes he is interested in the growth and proliferation of IoT solutions; the platforms, the standards, the devices – yet he’s also worried that we’ll remain distracted and overlook those elements necessary for growth. Especially when it comes to appropriate security – he believes it will undermine the uptake in the applications.

Having spent the last 15 years or so monitoring the M2M space, Robin is concerned how some security-solution-vendors have simply replaced “M2M” with “IoT”. And IoT is a whole lot more complex than M2M when it comes to security. In the M2M world, systems tend to operate within more clearly defined silos and therefore tend to be better understood. In the IoT world, data can jump silos, traverse interfaces, move across networks of variable provenance and get mashed with other data sources coming from a completely different part of the system.

Add to the threat landscape the variations in economic model, variations in threat levels and security requirements and it’s easy to see why the new world of IoT (in spaces such as cities, healthcare, energy and transport) is tangibly different from anything we’ve encountered before. I’ll add something else here too – these systems will likely be expected to operate for a decade or more too, so we have an extra time dimension – and in environments which vary greatly too.

All these elements create a business risk profile, and with risk comes the potential that markets will slow unless the benefits are significantly greater. So Robin sees the need to develop the markets from a more realistic opportunity, he feels that security should be seen as an enabler of markets and not a cost of deployment. It appears we need to change the way security is accounted for perhaps over the lifetime of a service rather than a unit cost of a physical solution.

Robin spoke at the IoT Security Foundation conference at the Royal Society recently and made a fuller case for his conclusions than I have here. Fortunately you can see his talk on Youtube – if you’re interested in IoT markets I would recommend you prep a coffee and invest 30 minutes to hear what he has to say – especially as it goes against the herd.

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