December 09, 2014

Powering “Thing” Data at the Scale of “Smart” for IoT Platform Architecture


We’re seeing the world change rapidly around us as the Internet of Things gains momentum. The predictions that our world will see an additional 35 billion connected devices in the next 5-6 years indicates a period of unprecedented change has arrived, and its impact will be drastic – the likes of which we only see once every 100 to 150 years:

  • Everything around us is becoming personalized. At the pub where everyone knows your name, the local jukebox now also knows your playlists.
  • These things are also becoming contextualized – the TV or newspaper might literally be the third or fourth “thing” that tells you that you're going to need a coat today. 
  • Things are getting really good at predicting your next move. Expecting a visitor? No need to call downstairs. Your security system has identified your guest’s wearable device, let her in and sent you both a text with your conference room location.

This is the third great wave of technology-led innovation, the first two of course being the “mechanical” revolution that drove increases in production in the 1760s; and the “electrical” revolution that drove automation on a mass scale the 1860s.

But for nearly 150 years since then, machines all required a human to operate each one. IoT is just starting to let us see how we can create machines that talk to each other. Instead of an oxygen monitor alerting a nurse, the monitor can be connected to the oxygen itself and immediately increase, while also alerting the nurse. Everything can be made smarter. But how?

In essence, there is a ton more data and information powering today’s “smart’ business leaders. This “next wave of the Industrial Revolution” is by its very nature impacting business in major ways. In retail – from the High Street to the e-Tailer. In travel – from the Travel Agent to an online self service model…and so on.

These companies all have one thing in common. They all have adopted common communication interfaces both internally and externally across their digital assets. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is reported to have sent an extremely direct memo in 2003 demanding that all internal teams share their data and functionality with each other through standard service interfaces.

This edict is often credited with Amazon’s later ability to create new opportunities by exposing previously internal processes. It’s also worth noting he made no statement on the technology to be used – just that interfaces be well documented and made available in a way that facilitated change management. It just so happened that what emerged as the company’s response were APIs, with which Amazon in effect built a digital platform for retail.

But how does today’s CIO join this new industrial revolution?

There are so many building blocks to connect both internally and externally. How can companies make sure that IoT data flows where it needs to from the sensor to the device to the data center… and all of it securely?

At the core… at the element level it’s all about APIs. While the Internet of Things has massive numbers, it’s a continuation of what we’ve seen for the last few decades, but at a scale that could be daunting to some. 50B is several times the number of people on the planet. Humans only have a notion of a “billion” but we can't actually grasp the true quantitative significance of that number. And a Zetabyte… let alone 44 of them? No way.

This is where the managing of this data and these devices comes in through the managing of APIs. As you can see, APIs and API Management are a key part of the Internet of Things.  API Management for IoT is designed to provide our IoT customers a unique end-to-end solution.  Customers can now not only bring their existing APIs into the Traffic Manager but they can also create brand new complex APIs. APIs are made available in a Developer friendly customer branded API portal that allows fast application development.  Finally when it comes to executing the APIs, it is all managed and orchestrated based on real-time execution of the security and policies in place.

As we start to talk about API management as an enabler for the Internet of Things, we begin to talk about many different dimensions of scaling IoT data both inside and outside the enterprise to create the intelligence of “smart” machines and devices. But what does this mean? For now, let’s focus on three general areas of benefit:

  • Lower Operational Costs – APIs enable IoT edge data to connect with the IoT building blocks such as data center analytics, which inform efficient operations with intelligence that can be used across the enterprise.
  • Improved Customer Experience – APIs enable IoT edge sensor data to power better business moments across existing IT systems by reusing IoT data in a scalable fashion.
  • New Revenue Streams – by tapping into customer demand for data, the app economy and developer communities, enterprises can monetize IoT data by creating API products.

Let’s look at how some of our customers are using Mashery's API Management and IoT to change their businesses.

Every car made for the US since 1996 has an on-board diagnostic data port underneath the dashboard, required by law, to make all data in your car available to you. Except it sometimes seems that the only person who has the plug for this port is your mechanic. Carvoyant is a company we work with who’s business is monetizing auto data via APIs by empowering drivers with the data from their automobile in realtime via an API. Carvoyant is harnessing the data from its subscribed drivers’ automobiles and selling it to businesses, from mechanics to insurance companies to banks.

Those companies in turn use the data to help inform apps that power a driver or owner experience focused on their actual car and driving. You can see how insurance companies could use this customer provided data to give them lower rates or for mechanics to tell you when you might want to come in to have something fixed or replace a recalled item.

One current example is Pro-Lease. Pro-Lease uses the Carvoyant API to track mileage and driving patterns, and applies algorithms to define when people are most likely to be in-market to renew (or find a new) lease. This information is then used for trigger-based marketing programs that Edmunds is betting will drive better ROI for marketers by generating better-qualified leads − and ultimately, become a substantial revenue opportunity for its owner.

What was considered impossible just a few years ago, is now reality. And undoubtedly technology is a key enabler of innovation and disruption. So how are businesses looking to take their existing business and setup for the next Industrial revolution? They are combining the technology of the enterprise with the technology of the Web and mobile with new technology of IoT, all with APIs.