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Smart Systems Architecture Evolution

M2M and IT technology only tell part of the story

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For quite a few years now, Harbor Research has focused most of its research and consulting on what we call “Smart Systems”—the convergence of pervasive or embedded computing with the packet-switching “network of networks” called the Internet.

These days, many people refer to this phenomenon as “the Internet of Things.” We prefer “Smart Systems” over other terms in common use—notably “M2M,” which usually stands for “machine-to-machine”—because it captures the profound enormity of the phenomenon – something much greater in scope than just machine connectivity.

Whatever we chose to call it — “Smart Systems” or “Pervasive Computing” or “The Internet of Things” — we are referring to digital microprocessors and sensors embedded in everyday objects. But even this makes too many assumptions about what the smart systems phenomenon will be. Encoded information in physical objects is also smart—even without intrinsic computing ability. Seen in this way, a printed bar code, a house key, or even the pages of a technical manual can have the status of an “information device” on a network. For that matter, all of these characterizations do not even begin to address the human-machine dimension of collaboration.

THE NEXT GREAT STEP IN INFO TECH REQUIRES A SIMPLE, FLEXIBLE, AND UNIVERSAL SCHEMA FOR ALL DATA DEVICES

What’s required is a distributed, peer-to-peer information management and application development space designed for everyone and every conceivable kind of data – a platform to overcome the Web’s “information islands” and offer the scalability, interoperability and information-freedom needed for the pervasive-computing and Internet of Things era.

We need to stop trying to leverage aging IT and software technology into a new context; its about looking forward to a single, unified architecture for interactions to which any PERSON or any THING can contribute, and which liberates data and information interactions by abandoning traditional relational database and client-server computing models.

Next generation platforms need to be designed for a genuinely connected world in which there are no artificial barriers between diverse data types; an architecture that facilitates free flowing data discovery, data fusion and collaborative application development.

GETTING THERE FIRAST; BUT TO WHERE?

Though their business models are intermingling today, all of the major categories of suppliers in the “traditional” so-called IT software arena have historically operated within well-established assumptions about product scope and business models. No one would characterize the existing players of being technology or business model innovators or disruptive in nature.

Radical new thinking about information technology must begin at the most basic levels, with new conceptions about the interactions of information with people, systems and devices. We think more about future proofing innovations by making the fewest possible assumptions about the nature of networked objects and the data they produce, carry or process – we need a much broader, all-encompassing view of information. Ultimately, this type of smart systems architecture will alter traditional business models and how new applications are realized.

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