Analyst firm Juniper Research estimates that the number of internet-connected things will rise by 285 per cent between 2015 and 2020, from 13.4 billion to 38.5 billion. The Internet of Thing has the potential to permanently disrupt 20th century business models.
The IoT has grown to become a global environment of networked devices and sensors with the capacity to provide real time updates of highly specific information. Personal wearables and smart home appliances have effectively captured the interest and imagination of consumers but it is in the sensors embedded in public infrastructure, utilities, factories and supply chains where IoT has the greatest potential to make real, substantive changes to our day to day lives. These ‘devices’ provide critical, real time information that make production processes more efficient, identify potential problems instantly and act to remedy them.
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In the age of Big Data, information gathering, storage and analysis all facilitate behaviour tracking and prediction, situational awareness and data driven analytics. The next step for the IoT is the jump from monitoring and analytics to automation. Rather than monitoring and reporting a problem for a human to rectify, these devices utilise Machine to Machine (M2M) communication to take action, independent of human intervention. This step will further increase productivity gains and safety standards by reducing reaction times to fractions of a second and allowing for automated error remedy and quality control. This is where the true potential of the Internet of Things is revealed. Data is collected and used as the basis for automated processes which then in turn feed more data back through the network which modifies the automated process further and so on.
This is where the true potential of the Internet of Things is revealed
However, none of this smooth, streamlined process would be possible without the substantial hardware support provided by the data centre. Data centres are absolutely at the heart of the Internet of Things. They provide the bulk storage capacity and high performance processing power required to handle the massive volumes of raw data that billions of connected devices generate. Back in 2013 the amount of information handled online, globally, was 4.4 zettabytes (the rough equivalent of 18,000 years of HD-TV). It is estimated to be at least ten times that volume by 2020. With the current proliferation of cloud based internet services it is easy to forget that ultimately all that data has to live somewhere. That somewhere is almost certainly a data centre. But traditional data centres are not capable of matching the kind of exponential, global growth that is predicted for the Internet of Things.
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Given the sheer volume of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data necessary to facilitate M2M communication, automated systems and complex analytics, the modern data centre must be able to spread the storage and computing loads across numerous, global locations. Efficient system management platforms are the only way to make such data manageable and useful. Data centre providers must recognise that they have become a communications hub facilitating the movement of big data from one site to another that may not be known. As a result the new age of data centres must build on and off ramps to clouds, platforms, networks, service providers and enterprises alike.
The data required for automated systems to function comes from a network of IoT connected devices all over the world
While data volumes are increasing exponentially there is a functional limit to the processing power of single, high-performance computers. With this much data, and this many non-human users of data centres, standardisation must prevail within the physical data centre. This is where the value of a modular approach to colocation begins to enable scalability of high performance computing. The data required for automated systems to function comes from a network of IoT connected devices all over the world. Data centres must anticipate the need for global data analysis/aggregation and by embracing a standardised modular approach data centre providers allow their users to easily harness the processing power of multiple, collocated systems.
The other key to unlocking the full potential of the IoT is data centre management software. Data centres have to mirror the automated systems and big data analytics services they enable. This requires the development and installation of a comprehensive data centre management system that can be automated to collect and monitor thousands of data points, in real time, from power efficiency to rack temperature. As long as there are manual links in the technological chain, the internet of everything cannot truly flourish.