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The Internet of Things: A Mobile Perspective

Cathal McGloinBy Cathal McGloin

Over the course of the next year, an increased focus on integrating connected devices into mobile strategies will be a priority for many companies. Recent research conducted by TechValidate on behalf of Red Hat shows that more than one in five (21 percent) of respondents across the globe have already incorporated the Internet of Things (IoT) into their businesses. An additional 27 percent plan to do so in the next year.

Industry analysts paint a similar picture of IoT traction: Gartner forecasts that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and says that level will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. In 2016, 5.5 million new things will get connected every day, says the consultancy. Verizon estimated its 2015 revenue from IoT and telematics offerings at more than $495 million.

From a mobile perspective, it’s important to understand the impact this focus on connected devices will have on mobile development.

Mobile can be transformative for businesses, as I’ve discussed. If you talk to customers, many will say that mobile apps have changed the way they do business, in either their personal lives or their own companies, or both. Apps from Uber to Instacart to have fundamentally reinvented business processes, and I believe the Internet of Things will have a similar impact. Therefore, as your customers increase their implementation of connected devices, some mobile lessons are worth taking into consideration. There’s significant overlap in select use cases.

IoT Will Influence Agility, Security, Collaboration

The proliferation of connected devices will lead to a marked increase in the amount of data being generated — Cisco predicts that annual global data center IP traffic will reach 10.4 zettabytes by the end of 2019, up from 3.4 zettabytes in 2014, partly thanks to IoT devices.

To effectively tackle data management, attention to back-end integration and security is critical. Connected devices create large data workloads and large connectivity needs, and you must ensure business customers are prepared to handle them on the back end from both a scalability and a security perspective. 

Security has and will continue to be among the top concerns in application development. I believe secure software-development measures must go beyond encryption and authentication to encompass the whole technology stack supporting IoT software. For example, at the end of 2014, more than 100,000 smart TVs, refrigerators and other IoT-connected household appliances were hijacked and used to send out 750,000 malicious emails. Without more attention to security up and down the stack, this attack may one day look tame.

Agility is also important, particularly in support of mobile development. According to the Vanson Bourne study, respondents are increasingly shifting to favor more lightweight languages for development, and use of “mobile back-end-as-a-service” technologies is on the rise. These technologies not only enable more-secure connections to back-end sources (again emphasizing security), they also permit you to centralize and manage different kinds of connections that can be reused across a number of customer mobile applications. Your dev team may see similar concepts emerge as they embrace the IoT and begin figuring out the best way to tackle the challenges presented by more connected devices.

Speaking of development teams, if you don’t offer this service either in house or by partnering with a specialist, you’re leaving money on the table: Ninety percent of respondents to our recent Vanson Bourne Mobile Maturity survey anticipate increasing investment in mobile-application development within the next 12 months. Without app dev capabilities, your ability to sell IoT services will be severely limited.

The good news is, beginning a dev team doesn’t need to be expensive. Most, 85 percent, of those survey respondents say open source software is important to their app dev strategies. Look for developers who know Node.js, which I expect to gain in popularity for back-end development, as well as Java and .NET, which are currently in wide use.

The IoT will likely prompt development teams to shift even further toward collaborative approaches to application development and deployment. Thirty-seven percent of respondents surveyed in the Vanson Bourne study have already adopted a collaborative Mobile Center of Excellence, in which IT and its representatives and lines of business work together to improve productivity.

This type of approach can better stimulate innovation and, given the overlap likely to occur between the needs of mobile and IoT teams, is something I highly recommend moving forward. It will not only yield better overall results, it will get you more face time with line-of-business leaders.

Interest in mobile development shows no signs of slowing down, and neither does the IoT. By implementing approaches that have been effective for successful mobile development – such as agility and collaboration – and baking security in from the get-go, you will be well poised to tackle, and profit from, customers’ emerging IoT needs. 

Cathal McGloin is vice president and general manager of mobile platforms at Red Hat Inc. the world’s leading open source technology company. He is responsible for all of Red Hat’s mobile business and is leading the drive to make the Red Hat Mobile Application Platform the leading open source cloud-based mobile application platform for enterprises.

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