The Tao of Things

When considering the Internet of Things, there has been much focus on the hardware: the billions of communicating devices. However, in realizing the potential of the IoT, the hardware is not the hard part. Instead it's about how to manage today's universe of fast, big data, generated by these devices.

The Internet of Things, a massive ecosystem of interconnected sensors and devices, holds such great potential to change our lives that it is being referred to as technology's next generation.

In 2008, the number of things connected to the Internet exceeded the number of people on earth (6.7 billion). By 2020, it is estimated that there will be 50 billion things connected.

The global Internet of Things market is expected to grow by more than $5 trillion over the next six years, according to International Data Corporation (IDC). IDC predicts that the global IoT market will hit $7.1 trillion by 2020, as people around the word -- and particularly in developed nations -- develop an affinity for full-time connectivity.

With every cellphone call, smart watch reading, Facebook update or smart car parking, a piece of data is born -- creating massive clouds of big data, which are interconnected.

This data can be compared with crowds of people walking and driving in a big city. Data, like the crowds and traffic, has to be managed - otherwise there will be accidents and crashes or riots. A way must be found to organize and manage the crowds, making their individual paths both clear and personalized.

Hence, the Tao of Things. Tao is translated as the way or path. Tao is the flow of the universe, and there is believed to be a pattern behind it that keeps the universe balanced and ordered. The concepts of Tao include yin and yang, where every action creates a counter-action.

If we apply Tao to the business enterprise, companies must accept the flow of the universe, along with the yin and yang, and work with it in order to avoid catastrophe and possibly take advantage of the opportunities created.

Take fast, big data, for example. As volumes and velocities of data continue to increase exponentially, many firms' existing infrastructure approaches are struggling to scale. New, agile, systems are needed to handle the Internet of Things' computational explosion of sensory inputs and reference data.

The devices and sensors themselves are just the data sources. The hard part is finding the right software architectures to support a new class of streaming, decision-centric application requirements. Systems are required that can analyze vast volumes of fast data, compare it against patterns in reference data and generate smart responses rapidly.

Let's look at our big city analogy. Imagine if traffic lights could sense when one part of the city was getting bottlenecked and then redirect traffic in order to speed things up. Imagine if a crowd of pedestrians was building up on the sidewalk outside a hockey game that was about to finish, and all of the pedestrian crossing lights stayed on until the people were dispersed.

City Hall or the police, armed with the relevant data from cars and people, and smart traffic lights, could accomplish this. The Tao, or flow, of the city would be transformed. This is an example of how intelligent business operations can help firms improve the Tao of Things.

Gartner call the new kind of business architecture required to deal with IoT's computational data explosion an "Intelligent Business Operation" (IBO). According to Gartner, IBO provides a style of work in which real-time analytic and decision management technologies are integrated into the operational activities that run a business, city or other complex system. Such an architecture is streamlined to handle, analyze and respond to the vast message scale of the IoT. Underlying technologies include a combination of low latency messaging ,streaming analytics & rules and intelligent business processes, all built on an in-memory platform.

As Lao Tzu, considered the father of Taoism, said: "All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small."