The Internet of Things and Smart Systems Stack

How Computing and The Physical World Are Merging To Transform Civilization

We are now feeling the first tremors of the most profound technological disruption in the history of humanity: networked, embedded intelligence in the most ordinary physical objects of the manufactured world—even objects implanted in the human body itself.  Ultimately, this phenomenon will change civilization more than electrification, the telephone, the train, the automobile, the airplane, and the Web all put together.

In fact, the effects of this phenomenon will so completely permeate human affairs that calling it “technological” is misleading. It will manifest itself not as technology per se (which will be largely invisible), but as social, cultural, and economic transformation.

Until very recently, “computers” and “the real world” have remained two distinct realms. The bridge between those realms has been the human user of computers.  In fact, we have seen very little genuine “cybernetic” automation.  Obviously, this is a transitional state of affairs. The convergence of these two worlds—the world of information represented as bits and the world of physical things made of atoms—is the future that is now beginning to finally take shape.

We have been using the term “Smart Systems” to describe the convergence of pervasive computing and global data networking, and the profound business opportunities that this convergence represents. The goal is to integrate intelligent devices with networked systems that are self-sensing, self-controlling, and self-optimizing—automatically, without human intervention. It would not be far-fetched to call such systems “self-aware.”

But trying to get one’s arms around these concepts can be challenging to say the least.   That’s why we have designed an expanded “IoT stack” model which we present here in a new infographic.

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We understand that many people, particularly in business, see the Internet of Things as a daunting terra incognita. The technologies are difficult to understand, the standards are constantly evolving, and the landscape of innovators and players can seem fragmented and bewildering.  Many people we have spoken to express concern about how easy it looks to make big mistakes based on poor business or technical decisions. And they’re right.

Most companies naturally respond to this fragmented, emergent and chaotic environment by trying to slow the world down so they can understand and control it.  These actions, while seemingly logical are, in fact, at odds with effective strategy in the evolving Smart Systems and IoT arena.

Unfortunately, at most companies, traditional strategy and decision-making methods tend to fall short of addressing all of the required viewpoints and perspectives that need to be considered – user experience, technology, architecture, business model design, partner ecosystems and more.

Understanding the intersection of these dimensions (or layers as we call them) and, more importantly, the impact from their interactions is crucial to creating new value. These “intersections” blend the physical with the digital, they mediate user interactions, business processes, technology architectures, and newly created market forces.

All of these dimensions and layers must be viewed in close proximity. They need to be mutually supportive without inhibiting each other.  However, trying to coordinate and leverage their respective roles often creates contention.

We are coming to see the continuously evolving relationship between all of the layers of the IoT stack as fertile ground for innovation.  They need to be interwoven and mutually supportive.  In fact, from our own direct consulting experiences, we believe success will go to the companies that effectively utilize their combined potential.

Download Infographic Here


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