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January 10, 2014

Does the Internet of Things have its head in the cloud?

Pontus Noren, the co-founder a director of Cloudreach, tells CBR his vision of bringing the world together through network-connected devices and cloud computing.

By Amy-Jo Crowley

Why is there so much hype for Internet-connected devices among equipment manufacturers, chipmakers and other technology developers?

Part of the Internet of Things (IoT) is driven by tech companies like Samsung or Cisco trying to generate demand for some of the existing devices that we don’t yet have. By their nature, they have to look for the next big thing. There are lots of different device hypes already out there, which will eventually reach a saturation point. Sales are now showing there’s a slowdown in the number of iPads sold compared to 12 or 18 months ago.

What innovations do you expect to unfold in the future?

We’ve seen some uptake around wearable devices for health and fitness, but the broader concept of IoT – everyday objects having their own IP address – will take more time to catch on because consumers usually buy new doors or fridges every ten or more years.

In terms of one of the things that connect to the Internet, what gets me excited is the ChromeBook and Chrome Rest from Google. They’ve simplified personal computing, making it more secure and quicker, from the way other platforms should have been before.

Forresster recently found that 26% of Americans are interested in controlling appliances with their smartphones, but 53% don’t really care about this at all. What would you put this disinterest down to?

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If you go back to 1992, and you ask the population how many needed to make a phone call when away from home, 53% probably would have said: "I can’t see any reason why on earth I would need to make a phone call driving or in the restaurant." But today, you get more than one phone per person in any Western economy. Apple created the smartphone market but, at the time, if you wanted a phone with a bunch of apps on it so you could play games, most people would have said: "No I want to use it to call." Until you have something in your hand that you feel they can give you, you perceive not to have the need to have it.

How is Cloudreach planning to tackle the IoT market?

Our role in all of this will be to work with startups to create the software to host and store the data in platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS). If you’re on a website or a backing application for a smartphone application or Corporate EIP system, all the architecture and aspects of it will be different.

Our solutions are not yet specific to IoT or wearable devices, but in future will be aligned to the actual application that’s been hosted in a cloud environment like AWS. The methodology will not vary widely if that makes sense, so we’ll provide architected and scalable solutions that we manage, back up and label for these organisations to run their applications.

How does the issue of privacy fit in with the IoT concept?

This privacy debate will be gone once my kids grow up because previous generations have had to enter and share details on the Internet without thinking about the consequences. New Internet users will grow up with this, dealing with it in their own way.

There will always be a trade-off – we cannot use free services and not want to put personal information on it. And while some people will fight future developments in cloud computing and infrastructure for security reasons, more informed people realise that the most secure thing you can do is to use some of these platforms. Samsung and other tech innovators must not only prove they are capable of handling the data required to fuel this securely, but also that they’re worthy of doing so.

If we do it right, we’ll see higher levels of security than what you would have in a conventional data centre, so privacy is going to be less of a concern.

What players will emerge as leaders in providing these platforms?

When it comes to data storage and depending on their jurisdiction, if you’re talking about the UK, it’s not a problem for any company to store it an environment like Google’s cloud. That goes for other players like Amazon and Salesforce. It’s clear that older school IT companies like IBM, Microsoft and others could succeed, but I do think their DNA was made in the olden days, and some of them will not succeed and will probably not exist in a not too distance future.

Can you see any startups emerging to take on Google, Amazon and Salesforce?

No, for the simple reason that the barrier to entry into this industry is an enormous investment and you need an unbelievably deep pocket and time to build highly secure, scalable, automated and cost effective cloud environment, like Amazon and Google have done today. Microsoft is playing catch up and I’m pretty certain it’ll get there. Any other smaller companies that are trying to build their own cloud infrastructure will struggle.

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