Don't get left behind, prepare for IoT now

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Internet of Things text with devices

The Internet of Things is a game-changing technology. But it hasn't yet reached the adoption it should have because the connectivity to support it isn't there yet, argues Dave McCory, CTO of database company Basho. In an interview with The Enterprisers Project, he looks into the future of IoT.

CIO_Q and A

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): What are some future challenges of IoT?

McCory: I think one of the future challenges of IoT is one of the current challenges. Part of the reason IoT is considered a brand-new technology even though distributed computing ideas have been around for a while is that people are still learning about how to move data around without introducing high latency. Unless our IoT tools are designed to deal with the complex challenges of being so distributed and having poor network connectivity, they won't benefit us. This problem is compounded by data attracting more data and uses (a.k.a. data gravity). This use of data increases the complexity further and creates more demands on the network and the tools to support IoT.

TEP: What about the future benefits of IoT?
McCory: I think there are thousands of unexplored use cases for IoT. These cases are being slowly uncovered today, but this insight will grow immensely over the next decade. Sensors will be embedded into everything, and we will begin gathering data from things we didn't previously expect could provide valuable data. We will also discover correlations and causations that we didn't have to see before because of the shortage of information. Think of optimizing placing tables and chairs in a food court for busy periods based on tracking chairs being moved and correlating those movements to specific traffic in stores or the parking lot. These discoveries will make our lives easier and reveal surprising things.

TEP: IoT devices can generate massive amounts of data, yet integrating, cleaning, and turning that data into actionable knowledge continues to be a challenge. What are the best overall strategies for dealing with IoT-created data? And how can companies avoid the danger of data hoarding?

McCory: The best pattern I've seen is to leverage a data pipeline that takes data feeds, processes them into a standard format, and verifies a minimum level of quality. Out of this processing, the data gets written into a data store. This data store is the write-centric store, and data is then replicated out to another data store that is designed for intensive reads and queries. This data store will usually feed an analytics system where additional insights may be written back into the write data store and the read data store. Finally, data is then aged out. Some may be deleted after it is rolled up, while other data will be sent to an archival cluster where operations may take longer because of the amount of data being processed.

TEP: Looking into the future, what do you think IoT technologies will look like in five years? What will we be able to do with this technology that no one is thinking about now?

McCory: Today we think of more IoT solutions being driven by sensors or simple systems. In the future, we will see things operated on feedback loops. IoT leveraging feedback loops are when incredible levels of automation can happen and when we will see highly complex systems heavily leveraging things like machine learning to solve problems. This will bring new business models and new levels of efficiency in places where we thought we had previously reached the limits of optimization.

TEP: What advice would you give CIOs on how to prepare for the next generation of IoT?

McCory: Build for IoT now. Don't try to twist old data strategies and solutions into IoT strategies and solutions. It might mean an infrastructure overhaul, but it's better to invest in the technologies and processes now rather than to keep building some Frankenstein's monster-like infrastructure of cobbled-together parts.

IoT will keep evolving, but it will likely be a distributed system with a data store and analytics at its core. Start building, learning, and understanding now with a goal of adapting to the future instead of waiting and then having your business disrupted because it is left behind.

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and columnist for She is co-author of "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," as well as several other books. She lives in Snohomish, Washington.