23 May 2019
Technology related to smart cities and smart buildings is reaching a new level of maturity. Photo:
Technology related to smart cities and smart buildings is reaching a new level of maturity. Photo:

IoT and its prospects: An expert shares his views

Though it may have become somewhat of a cliché, “going smart” is without doubt what the future holds for various industries and the goods and services they deliver to consumers. In a report published in June 2015, MicKinsey Global Institute forecast that annual economic benefits involving the Internet of Things (IoT) will reach US$11.1 trillion by 2025.

To discuss these and related issues, EJ Insight met up with Andy Cocks, chief technology officer of Dimension Data Asia Pacific, an NTT group member which provides solutions on aspects such as digital infrastructure, hybrid cloud, digital workspaces and cybersecurity. Excerpts from an interview: 

Q: What are the major applications of IoT currently?

A: If you want to talk about IoT, you need to look at which industries or verticals it is applied. There are a couple of areas that seem to be quite hot. Smart cities and smart buildings have been around for quite a while now. I think the technology is maturing for entrance to the marketplace.

For smart buildings, they’ve got their sensors and network connected. The magic to connect is building management system (BMS). It tends to be a closed system. Everything, including a high-voltage, door entry system, and a fire alarm, is connected. That’s sort of relatively available for a number of years, like more than 10 years. Obviously the technology matures.

People are looking at the smart cities for a number of reasons, like video surveillance connecting with traffic lights systems and road sensors. I live in places including Hong Kong, Singapore and China, and England. And London is the place that probably has the most number of cameras on the planet, which is for a security reason. Cameras are everywhere there.

Manufacturing industry is also where all the actions involving IoT can be seen. I think in Asia, we’ve quite a lot of pilot projects where people are testing. What you’ve got are back-office information technology (IT) that supports office work, as well as the factory floor work called operation technology (OT), including lanes and machines, cutters and tools, all of which have own their own proprietary.

Q: How long does it usually take for an IoT project to run?

A: I’d say a typical IoT project, from start to finish, requires three years, typically for any industry. After people have got an idea, they have to go to the board for approval. Then they would do some sort of proof-of-concept that can be anywhere between six months and two years. And then work out a larger phase, which takes another 18 months. And finally do a full deployment.

Q: Is there any risk associated with IoT?

A: A big issue here regarding IoT is how you network numerous protocols which have different standards. In order to do real IoT, you have to network all these devices together.

Security is another big risk. There are a lot of new startups in the IoT security space. Inherently everything will be insecure. You don’t secure the endpoint, but you secure the business process you try to automate or provide IoT connectivity for the devices.

Q: How far would you foresee the IoT will advance in the next five to 10 years?

A: I don’t think it is gonna explode! As I said, one of the challenges is that the standard of those network protocols hasn’t evolved yet. So, everybody is fighting. For me, the network protocol needs to be standardized.

People may also not feel comfortable with those devices. As I said, it may take three to five years for people to start to be comfortable with IoT projects, just like that of cloud service three to five years ago, the future of which people were unsure about.

Q:  Is it possible for IoT to combine with artificial intelligence (AI) to become or transform to more advanced technology?

A: Today everyone is struggling with the connectivity and security. Once you’re beyond that, you’ll have got more data to develop and then know what to do with them. That’s where Big Data, analytics and AI would start to feed all data to those people.

But I don’t see things making intelligence decisions yet.

They will be automated. That’s the key thing moving forward. The automation and learning system will start to come together.

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Andy Cocks, chief technology officer of Dimension Data Asia Pacific, considers smart cities and smart buildings to be among the hot areas in relation to IoT applications. Photo: Dimension Data

Finding ways to network protocols that have different standards, and addressing the security issue, are among the challenges in relation to IoT applications. Photo:

EJ Insight writer

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