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Is the outlook cloudy for the IoT?

By Bob Tarzey

In a recent Quocirca research report, The many guises of the IoT (sponsored by Neustar), 37% of the UK-based enterprises surveyed said the IoT was already having a major impact on their organisation and other 45% expected there would be an impact soon. The remaining 18% were sceptical about the whole IoT thing.

The numbers reported in another 2015 Quocirca survey of UK enterprises regarding attitudes to public clouds services (From NO to KNOW, sponsored by Digital Guardian) were along similar lines, 32% were enthusiasts, 58% had various cloud initiatives and 10% said they were avoiding such services.

Whilst the two data sets cannot be correlated as they involved different sets of respondents, at the very least there must be a bit of overlap between the organisations that are enthusiastic about the IoT and those that feel the same about public cloud services. However, Quocirca expects there is a strong alignment between the two as organisations that seek to exploit the latest innovations tend to do so on a broad front.

That said, the teams involved within an individual organisation will be different. Those looking at IoT, as Quocirca's research shows, will be looking to improve existing and introduce new processes for managing supply chains, controlling infrastructure and so on. Those looking at cloud will be seeking new ways to deliver IT to their organisation or, perhaps, responding to initiatives taken elsewhere in the business (i.e. managing shadow IT).

So, is there any overlap between these teams? Should the IoT team be heading to events like Cloud Expo Europe in April 2016 to seek inspiration? The answer is surely yes. To build IoT applications requires many of the things public cloud platforms can offer. The top concerns for those steaming ahead with IoT deployments, identified in Quocirca's research, are that networks will be overwhelmed by data and that they will be unable to analyse all the data collected. Both are scalability issues that can be addressed with public cloud platforms.

For any IoT application, there will be a need for the large scale and often long term storage of data and the need for, sometimes intermittent, processing power to analyse it. Cloud service providers can provide both the storage and flexible computing capacity to support this. Furthermore, more than a third of the organisations Quocirca surveyed already expect to roll IoT applications out on a national scale; using a cloud platform to process the data can also mean using the provider's secure wide area networks to transmit it.

It is not surprising then that most cloud service providers now have IoT offerings. This includes Microsoft's Azure IoT Suite that comes with preconfigured options for deploying IoT end points (sensors and so on) and gathering data from them. The AWS IoT offers a similar capability to connect and securely collect and process data. The Google Cloud Platform provides "the tools to scale connections, gather and make sense of [IoT] data".

That's just what three of the biggest public cloud service providers are up to with the IoT. There will be many more offerings from other providers, of particular relevance may be providers in the UK that have strong local networks, such as Virgin Media and BT that both have IoT initiatives. Who knows what else may be discovered by those with IoT ambitions at shows such as Cloud Expo Europe., where there will be ready access to innovative vendors and informative conference presentations. It is perhaps no coincidence that it is collocated with a sister show Smart IoT London.