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The Sensor-Driven IoT

Magnitudes More Data Is Coming

I've been reading a few things over the past few days, from people who should know better, casting doubts on the legitimacy of the Internet of Things.

Isn't this just more marketing hype, they ask? Isn't the Internet already all-encompassing by definition? And don't we already have things - you know, phones and tablets, attached to the Internet?

It's time for these folks to sit back, ponder a bit, and wait for that "whoaaa" moment. Because the Internet of Things is going to scale up our present Internet by a factor of 10, 100, and 1,000 very quickly. How quickly is being debated by professional prognosticators.

For me, there's no time to analyze how many trillions of dollars are represented by the IoT. All I know I learned in kindergarten, and it was there that I learned that I couldn't draw a picture worth a damn. I also learned to make friends with the really big kids.

And the IoT is a very, very big kid. Let's focus today on just one aspect of it, the construction industry.

The construction industry is a $500 billion in the US alone, and this during the recent off years. This would put global construction on the order of a $2 trillion annual industry.

Within in it are single-family, multi-family, retail, commercial, and institutional sub-sectors. All of the sub-sectors are now focusing to some degree on so-called smart buildings, green buildings, sustainable buildings, as well as Building Management Systems (BMS) and Building Automation Systems (BAS).

Regardless of one's political views, I think it's smart to do things that optimize and reduce overall energy consumption. My view is based heavily on my experience traveling and living in the developed world: I would dearly love in my lifetime to see a world in which abject poverty has been eradicated, and I realize there is a tremendous energy-consumption problem to solve.

Set aside for a minute (if we can) the political realities that make poverty reduction so difficult. Should the human race suddenly become a pacifist, cooperative species, we will need to at least quadruple the globe's power consumption to bring everyone up to a passable quality of life. The more energy we can save along the way, the smaller the demand for new power consumption, and the easier (relatively) the task becomes.

The smartness, greenness, and sustainability of construction, this multi-trillion-dollar annual business, will drive and be driven by the Internet of Things. It will require wholesale improvements by companies such as Honeywell, and not just the usual suspects in our tech industry.

Build It & They Will Come
Imagine a nice office building with 5,000 employees. Today, it will have maybe 10,000 connections to the Internet. If YouTube and porn are strongly discouraged or blocked, these 10,000 connections will desire maybe 50,000 megabits (or 50gbs) of steady data flow, with an almost total drop-off for much of each 24-hour cycle.

Now imagine real-time sensors scattered throughout the thousands of offices, conference rooms, and other rooms; through corridors; throughout the HVAC system; etc. How many sensors will be present? Perhaps 50,000 or perhaps 500,000 or perhaps 5 million.

I remember more than a decade ago when a Sun Microsystems CTO (Greg Papadpolous, pictured here) talked about spray painting sensors dots into the fabric of walls and floors in the office-of-the-future. Our highly sensitive, spray-painted office building will be returning magnitudes more data to the Internet than our few devices do today. Breathe in, breathe out, then imagine scaling up this idea to entire campuses, cities, regions, countries, and the globe.

We are not there with the most modern buildings today. But we are held back by a simple matter of execution, not by our collective vision.

Sure, I'm at least half-paranoid that evildoers of many stripes will exert malignant control over all of this data, and plunge us further into the Orwellian mess that we seem to be spiraling toward. But I'm also sure that such sensor-based smart construction is inevitable.

That's what the Internet of Things is all about.

Contact Me on Twitter

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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