What does IoT mean for mobile?

Rob Borley
on 23 July 2015

The emerging Internet of Things (IoT) raises almost as many questions as it answers, from integrating new technology with legacy systems, to storing and processing the vast amounts of data generated. And one of those questions is how do IoT and mobile affect each other in the post-PC era?

Mobile as a “Thing”

In many respects the ubiquitous smartphone was actually the first widely available IoT device. Connected via WiFi or cellular networks, each handset uses internal sensors to provide useful data to its owner. From GPS coordinates for navigation, through to motion sensors for screen orientation or fitness tracking, smartphones have been collecting data for some time.

As people became more reliant on this data, Cloud services allowed for aggregation and synchronisation across a range of devices and apps, helping to extract additional value. Similarly businesses have been able to tap into these sensors using custom apps to collect useful metrics, laying the basic groundwork for future IoT roll-outs.

Mobile as part of the larger picture

Mobile will continue to play an important part in the IoT environment of the future, particularly where data needs to be collected around human resources or moving sensors; fixed systems on the other hand will be better served by dedicated, low-cost sensors. The ability to interact with data as it is collected on mobile devices also allows businesses to add context, and therefore more value, in the process.

As businesses look to simultaneously increase storage capacity and cut costs, Cloud adoption is expected to accelerate sharply. Moving IoT data (or at least portions of it) into the Cloud, can meet both these needs and increase availability. In a business context, smartphones and tablets will conceivably become the interface, allowing users to manipulate vast datasets in real time, for improved efficiency on site.

In the consumer market, smartphones will operate as the hub for IoT devices installed in the home. Handsets that offer Bluetooth LE, WiFi and even NFC will be able to communicate with sensors and control units – potentially even doing away with the need for offloading data and operations to the Cloud.

Presenting a new app design challenge

Obviously this will see the rise of a new breed of IoT apps designed to help users collate and sort through potentially vast datasets and display it meaningfully on a relatively small screen. Again, Cloud infrastructure is likely to play a major role behind the scenes, performing the resource-intensive data functions before forwarding results for display on the device.

And as technologies mature, expect to see a standardisation of APIs that allow for better information exchange between mobile devices and IoT sensors direct. This will also help to improve multi-platform operations to cope with the different mobile operating systems and limitations.
Mobile and IoT – inseparable partners
As a part of the IoT ecosystem, mobile devices play an important part in streamlining the collection, management and use of the data generated. As such, neither will completely displace the other – at least for the foreseeable future.

Continued refinements in the size of electronic componentry will see IoT sensors becoming ever more intelligent and autonomous, but as industries moves away from desktops in favour of post-PC devices, smartphones and tablets will be crucial to making sense of the IoT revolution.


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