Steve Apps, CTO at Huawei, suggests that here in South Africa, we are still in the fairly early days of IOT, where although the devices are becoming cheaper, cost remains an issue, most notably those related to connectivity, although prices are beginning to fall.
"I think that when 5G takes off, we will finally see a significant difference in the manner in which the IOT will be utilised. It will make a massive difference, because 5G will be a network designed for both broadband communications and IOT transmissions, which will enable organisations to standardise IOT devices and management," he says.
"At Huawei, we are well aware of the impact the IOT can have, since we have been involved in plenty of research in this area, as well as in the implementation of around a dozen smart cities across the globe. The most vital thing we have learned from this is the need for open standards and open connectivity, which in turn leads to greater collaboration."
Open standards are vital, he explains, because, currently, too many device manufacturers write their own proprietary code, leaving the device ultimately dependent on the engineers that developed it. With an open source foundation, on the other hand, the IOT devices can be installed across a large number of existing microprocessors, and furthermore, the communication from these devices can be managed according to the type of connectivity it is able to use.
"Once the right platform and standards are in place, it all boils down to to the data received and what an entity wants to do with it. Obviously, as the number of connected devices increases, so the sheer amount of data being received will require some form of artificial intelligence (AI) to process this rapidly enough to deliver meaningful and useful insights.
"Remember that the greater the access to insightful information, the greater the potential to do meaningful things. In the context of a smart city, what we would be talking about would be to take advantage of data to either deliver new services or improve existing ones. A simple example would be to take data received from a camera placed for security purposes and use this to also monitor traffic flow, vehicle speeds and the like. When AI is added to this, you can use the data to provide advance warnings around accidents or for something like smart parking," he says.
In the end, says Apps, the manner in which the IOT can be utilised is very much determined by one's imagination; whatever people can think of to use it for, he says, is within the realm of possibility.
He adds that we also need to create a workforce that is geared for this; currently, there is a lack of available skills in the industry to design and install the kind of sensors that will be needed to deliver the benefits of these smart solutions. There is also currently a lack of skill related to how to interpret the data provided.
"Therefore, in order to create this fully connected world, I cannot stress enough how important collaboration is going to be moving forward. Huawei, for one, is already seeking to work together with other players in the industry to drive this smart future forward.
"We see collaboration as the only way forward, since the sheer number of devices and the vast quantities of data that will be generated mean that no one company will have the resources and applications required to make sense of it all. This is why we are working closely with organisations here and around the world to drive the IOT future forward in a truly collaborative manner," he concludes.View more content