In recent years two technologies have combined synergistically, the cloud and mobile. Without the cloud many of the mobile apps we have today would not exist. They rely on the existence of powerful cloud-based syncing and storage technology to provide a compelling cross-platform user experience. Cloud-based notifications are an essential part of the mobile ecosystem. Without cloud compute, devices wouldn’t be capable of tasks that require advanced processing like speech recognition and image manipulation.
Mobile devices are growing ever more powerful, but they still lag behind desktop and server hardware in processing power and storage, so in order to provide the experience that users expect, a symbiosis has developed between mobile devices and the cloud.
But mobile is just the beginning. As processors become ever smaller, cheaper, and more powerful, they are finding their way into objects that were not traditionally “intelligent.” The smart toaster is something of a cliché, but there is considerable benefit to be reaped from adding computational abilities to appliances and everyday items, and equipping them with a connection to the Internet. In the coming years we can expect to see everything from clothes to locks and door mats finding their way onto the Internet, as manufacturers augment their products with computational power, connecting them to form the Internet of Things.
The scope of the mobile computing revolution will pale in comparison to the Internet of Things, and the confluence of mobile, cloud, and intelligent objects is the next great market opportunity for cloud providers. Just as with mobile, the Internet of Things will depend heavily on the cloud for processing power, storage, and interconnectedness.
An obvious example from today is the Phillips Hue system, which combines advances in lighting technology with computationally endowed light bulbs and a mobile app control interface to completely change the way we think about household lighting.
But, the immediate functional benefits of intelligent objects are only a small part of the truly revolutionary potential of the Internet of Things. Smart objects will be endowed with sensors that will feed data back to cloud platforms for analysis. With so much data flowing in from potentially millions of different nodes, the diversity and precision of the knowledge we have about the world will explode. The cloud is the only technology suitable for filtering, analyzing, storing, and accessing that information in useful ways.
Although the cloud may seem to be a mature technology, we’re only at the very beginning of exploiting the true potential of the interface between mobile, cloud, and smart objects with sensors. Those who are ready with the necessary infrastructure and expertise will be perfectly placed to reap the business rewards of the Internet of Things.