IoT Practitioner Kick-Off Blog Posting by Chris O’Connor

I’m excited to be involved in the launch of and look forward to contributing IBM’s point of view on the Internet of Things and where it’s headed. Moreover, I look forward to the knowledge that will be shared by peers that are leveraging the IoT to reshape how we work and live. I invite all with a stake or interest in the IoT to join the exchange ideas and network with others advancing the Internet of Things by actively participating here.

I thought a good first blog would be one that gives an overview of what I see as important in the space right now and some ideas on what will be important in the near future. So with that in mind, here is my take on 5 things that will be important drivers of enterprise IoT in the coming year.


Application programming interfaces (APIs) and a sound strategy around them is becoming increasingly important to enterprises tapping into the IoT. APIs serve as a bridge to connect useful information and plentiful data to the Internet of Things, making the Internet of Things useful by connecting many disparate things into a powerful network that offers astounding possibilities.

APIs are the market enabler, and Internet of Things devices would be useless without them. By exposing data that enables multiple devices to be connected, APIs provide an interface between the Internet and the things to reveal previously unseen possibilities. In the year to come, the power and importance of APIs will be at the forefront of the conversation around enabling—and more important—monetizing the Internet of Things.

IBM brings the power of cognition to the Internet of Things with Watson APIs. In a physical world in which devices and systems are becoming highly digitized, the capabilities provided by these APIs give IBM clients, partners and developers an ever fuller sense of the data on which they rely.


As we rely on connected devices to make our lives better and easier, security must be considered from every aspect. All participants in the IoT ecosystem have a responsibility for the security of the devices, data and solutions. This means that device manufacturers, application developers, consumers, operators, integrators and enterprise businesses all have their part to play to follow best practices.

IoT security requires a multi-layered approach. From a device point of view it should be considered at the blueprint level that starts with design and development and keeps hardware, firmware/software, and data secure through their entire life. The same approach applies if you are a security analyst or operations personnel responsible for IoT solutions. To enable the full potential of IoT, security challenges must be addressed through a combination of interoperability, education and good design—and by taking a proactive, not reactive approach to designing security features, which will result in better products and solutions.

Understanding the intricacies of IoT and the security around it is something that we at IBM have taken very seriously. We have invested and combined the expertise from across the IBM business incorporating thought leaders from IBM Research, Security and IoT to provide a comprehensive overview of IoT Security. In our latest POV on cognitive security for the Internet of Things, we share with the whole IoT community in a bid to disseminate ideas and best practices.  In addition, we continue to work with various organizations who are researching and publishing recommendations on IoT and security including the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) and IoT Security Foundation (IoTSF).


IoT platforms received a great amount of attention in 2016 as most major IoT players rolled one out in one form or another. Platforms that have the right elements can provide tremendous value by linking the IoT endpoints to the applications and analytics needed to generate business outcomes. It’s the linchpin in a holistic IoT solution as it enables the data generated at the endpoints to be processed and meaningfully used by end users.

An IoT platform must connect devices, must collect data, must handle thousands of vendors, dozens of standards and must be able to scale to millions of devices sending billions of messages. To deliver true value beyond the basics, it must add cognitive, security, privacy, insight generation and close loop automation. With these capabilities and the supporting technology advancements, the IoT platform becomes an agent of transformation for a business.

The recently published report, The Forrester Wave™: IoT Software Platforms, Q4 2016 assessed how the leading IoT platforms stack up against each other based on current offerings, strategy and market presence. I invite you to read the report to see how IBM’s investment in this technology for the past ten years, combined with new capabilities, has placed us as a leader among IoT platform vendors.

Cognitive Computing

The Internet of Things is at the threshold of a tremendous opportunity. Connecting things with unique IP addresses has been possible for over a decade, but the commoditization of sensors, processors and memory now make it viable to make everyday things move beyond being just connected, but actually making them intelligent.

Beyond traditional IoT implementations, cognitive computing is increasing the amount of data to improve the learning environment and increase the possibilities of what can be done with edge analytics – making sensors capable of diagnosing and adapting to their environment without the need for human intervention. Another huge advantage of cognitive IoT is the ability to combine multiple data streams that can identify patterns and give much more context than would be otherwise available.

Cognitive IoT, AI and machine learning are further enabling enterprises to unlock IoT value. An exploding amount of IoT data requires a new approach to gather, analyze and makes sense out of all that data. Such a massive amount of information from sensors and devices can be used to enhance existing data and knowledge, uncovering insights capable of transforming industries. But although making sense out of dark data and edge data is paving our way to revolutionary ideas and technologies, it requires a cognitive approach that can effectively handle increasingly large inputs while generating meaningful output. Programmable systems thrive on prescribed scenarios using predictable data, and their rigidity can limit their usefulness when addressing the ambiguity and uncertainty of IoT data. Cognitive systems, however, are not explicitly programmed. Rather, they learn from interactions with people and from experiences with their environment. In doing so, they become able to keep pace with the complexity of the Internet of things, identifying data correlations that would otherwise go unnoticed.


Blockchain is playing a major part in the Internet of Things by enhancing security, making transactions more seamless and creating efficiencies in the supply chain.

I expect the coming year will be one in which we see companies start to leverage blockchain in 3 key ways:

  1. Build trust –  blockchain can help build trust between the people and parties that transact together. Watson IoT blockchain enables devices to participate in blockchain transactions as a trusted party.  While Person A may not know device B and may not trust it implicitly, the indelible record of transactions and data from devices stored on the blockchain provide proof and command the necessary trust for businesses and people to cooperate.
  2. Reduce costs – IoT and blockchain can enable participants to reduce monetary and time commitment costs by ultimately removing the “middle man” from the process. Transactions and device data are now exhibited on a peer to peer basis, removing most legal or contractual costs.
  3. Accelerate transactions – IoT and blockchain enables more transactions overall because the “middle man” is removed from the process. Smart contracts allow for organizations to reduce time needed for completing legal or contractual commitments.

Blockchain for IoT can transform the way business transactions are conducted globally through a trustworthy environment to automate and encode business transactions while preserving enterprise level privacy and security for all parties in the transaction. IBM Watson IoT Blockchain utilizes blockchain capabilities and enables information from IoT devices to be used in transactions. This allows IoT devices to be used in building blockchain-based solutions to help organizations improve operational efficiency, transform customer experience, and adopt new business models in a secure, private, and decentralized manner, so all participating organizations gain value.

I expect these 5 things to play a major role in enterprise IoT in 2017 and beyond this year. I also expect to see many things we aren’t currently thinking about emerge in the next year as the IoT is evolving so rapidly that there is always something new. I welcome your thoughts on these trends or other major trends you believe will drive the Internet of Things this year. Leave a comment with your thought or Tweet me @ChrisROConnor.