The buzz around the ‘Internet of Things’ is mainly caused because we seem to have passed a major tipping point. Cheap to produce Systems-on-a-Chip have reached levels of integration and computing power that enable running serious functionality combined with a full IP network stack. We’re facing an explosion of inter-networked things. These things have mainly been extensions of concepts we have been familiar with for decades. Heart-rate monitors are not exactly a new idea; the form-factor of a watch and network connectivity have just extended a concept we’ve already known for decades. The same with security cameras, thermostats and light bulbs. But that is going to change rapidly. Who knows what brillant or downright amazing solutions will be conceived for problems we didn’t know we had…
At the other side there has been an explosion of internet applications that can be accessed using well-defined and publicly available APIs. A myrad of interconnected applications has become available in recent years, mashed together like never before.
Where IoT and IoS meet
This is where the internet of things (IoT) and the internet of services (IoS) connect. These things are sensors, information processors and devices that enable interaction with the physical world. But their potential value is only really unleashed when their data and functionality is processed and enhanced by services. Sevices that are provided as web applications, more and more extended with a user interface built as an app for your smartphone.
In many cases these services are provided by the same company that sold you the device. Your purchase included these services; in fact a part of the bill covered the cost of the services. You paid a one-time fee. But many of these devices have a well-documented interface that can be handled by other services as well. Services that are extremely cheap or even free.
Services have to be provided. Providing a service is an activity that requires funding, significant funding. Equipment, people and resources are still not avalable for free, at least not in countries that participate in the global economy. Providing a service has to create benefits for the provider. Tangible benefits such as monetary value or cash flow. Or intangible benefits, such as knowledge, a change in behaviour of people, future monetary benefits or whatever people may deem valuable. Companies are very creative in finding ways to generate financial revenues from these intangible benefits. There are myrads of services that require no fee from its users. But you nevertheless pay for them, in many cases by trading the one thing that has value to these companies. The one and only thing that only you can create and that does not require real effort: data about your and about your behaviour.
A service has a limited lifespan. Once you stop interacting with a service, it will cease to create benefits for the provider. If the provider terminates the service, it will cease to create benefits. If the provider ceases to exist and the service is not tranfered to another provider, the service will end and cease to create benefits.
Maybe the data the service has gathered remain valuable for the service provider. Regardless of rights the provider has establised in the terms of service, this value will degrade rapidly over time.
The IoS generates the value of IoT
One could consider a ‘thing’ in the context of the Internet of Things as something that provides one or more services. The consumer of this service usually is some other kind of ‘service’ in the Internet of Services. So while the device that collects the data (the actual ‘thing’ in IoT) may be a tangible object one can touch, cherish and throw out of the window, most of its value is generated not by the device itself but by the services it is connected to: the Internet of Services. Those services have a lifespan that is only rather loosely related to the device. It is mostly determined by the ways the service provider is able to generate monetary benefits from these service.
- In the Internet of Things, the consumer is not a customer but a supplier
- The roles of the owner of an IoT device, expressed in UML