Will the Real IoT Please Stand Up?

27 Feb 2018

As I was walking home from breakfast this morning I came across another line of lime green bikes that had been knocked down like a row of dominoes. The wind? Perhaps. An accident? Perhaps. More likely someone out running or walking who was angry about the clutter of rental bikes that have rained on our city since last late last summer.

A bit of background: I live in Uptown Dallas. As the name might imply, it is just north of Downtown Dallas, and considered by many to be the most walkable neighborhood in the DFW metroplex. (If you are familiar with the area, many Dallas suburbs don’t even have sidewalks outside of the housing developments).

Last August the first bike share company hit the streets of Uptown and Downtown, and since then it is estimated that 20,000 bikes now clutter our sidewalks. These are dockless bike share deployments. You can rent them for $1 an hour using a QR code on the back of the bike and ditch them wherever you want. Occasionally someone from the bike company comes along and lines them up right in the middle of the sidewalk. They are an eyesore and a target for angry walkers to play dominoes or throw them in our beautiful Turtle Creek.

It dawned on me that as cities start to roll out the infrastructure for IoT this is a perfect application. Frustrated Dallas city leaders have already warned bike company owners that they have to limit the number of bikes left in a certain area, retrieve them from the middle of parks and creeks, etc. However manually this is difficult for bike companies to keep track of and hard for city officials to enforce.

If ever a thing needed an IP address to report its location it is one of these bright yellow or lime green bikes. At least that’s how I felt this morning. In fact, I have no doubt that many would be reporting their location somewhere far south of the border.

When I got home I decided to search the Internet to see what I could find out about plans to make Dallas a smart city. I did find a smattering of projects underway, many in conjunction with AT&T who has headquarters here. Major vendors such as Cisco and Ericsson are also involved.

However, as I expanded my search into what vendors list as IoT case studies I sometimes had to chuckle. Just as when the term “Unified Communications” was first a thing and vendors were quick to classify their voice-only PBX under that umbrella, some folks are stretching what they consider to be IoT.

For example, one leading vendor classifies Wi-Fi network upgrades as IoT case studies. One of the world’s top news sites aimed at entrepreneurs lists applications such as Amazon’s Alexa, Evernote, Google Drive, Google Alerts and RSS feeds as IoT applications. According to that article if it can automate anything you do, it must be IoT.

Classifying M2M applications as IoT seems less of a stretch, yet even here there are differences. M2M deployments are typically point-to-point and thus not very scalable and more expensive to deploy. IoT enables lower power, lower cost deployment of devices across standard IP networks with data available to applications throughout the enterprise. Data from IoT devices is easily delivered to the cloud, further lowering the cost and versatility of deployment models, as well as application integration.

To be clear, there are many innovative IoT application case studies to draw on. From agriculture to automotive, manufacturing, healthcare, smart cities and beyond, IoT is poised to radically change the way we work and play. Adding in the ability not only to monitor, but to take action automatically or to alert a human to take action leads to endless possibilities.

I am looking forward to attending Enterprise Connect in Orlando next month. I will be on the lookout for new IoT applications and enabling technologies.

Meanwhile I hope Dallas hurries up and builds out its infrastructure to be able to do something about those ugly bikes. Oh, but I am okay if they lose the red light cameras. Those are costing me a fortune.


Good piece Tracy.  Always fun to see how players in the UC / BC industry spin their story, however sometimes tenuous, to the latest industry trends.


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