When Everything Becomes Data

Written By Jerome Dubreuil, Senior Director at SSIC, Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center

“IoT”—Internet of Things—has in the past few years become an essential concept. True to its name, it starts with Things that connect to the Internet. Directly or through gateways, these Things can send and possibly receive data to and from a “cloud,” where the data can be stored, processed and accessed. This isn’t anything new. It’s the number and variety of these things that “IoT” refers to: They will be in orders of magnitude beyond what we can imagine today. As Forbes recently put it, “The economic impact of the IoT will re-shape the world’s economy.”

The phrase has been used and reused so much, however, that we have lost track of IoT’s actual promise. While many believe the Internet of Things will be the next major IT revolution, we don’t really know why; nor what IoT will bring us as its consumers.

Jerome Dubreuil explains IoT project he's working on with Samsung to the 50K Member Celebration attendees in San Francisco, above.

Jerome Dubreuil explains IoT project he’s working on with Samsung to the 50K Member Celebration attendees in San Francisco, above.

IoT is not the number of daily steps you make, it’s not seeing on your TV when the washing machine is done, it’s not industrial machines equipped with hundreds of sensors, and it’s not city lights or parking meters sharing their usage automatically. It’s about something much bigger and easily missed as we witness the first steps of a grand change while distracted by its early manifestations.

To understand IoT, we must project ourselves into a world where connected devices are pervasive and ubiquitous. In that world, small bits of data flow quickly from millions of sensors into the cloud and back into actuators embedded in all things. These things are working to make our life easier.

They are things that have been around us for a long time (televisions, lights, medical equipment, the chemical monitor in your swimming pool), things that are being invented as the hardware and data infrastructure enables them (tree health sensors, pregnancy monitors for pregnant women), industrial things, corporate things, community things, consumer things; things on us, things around us, and many things in between.

How many Things? In 2014, it was said that there were already more than 14 billion connected things. By 2020—just four years from now—Gartner predicted 25 billion, Cisco 50 billion, and Intel 200 billion. We know how technology accelerates, so what about in 10 years? 10 trillion? Whatever the number, it will be huge; and whether or not we like this vision of the world, the trend is telling us that connecting things, sensing and reporting data is most likely here to stay and grow.

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What IoT is Really About

This is IoT: it’s the data. In a few years, a significant part of the physical world will be digitized. Look around and imagine yourself in your surroundings constantly capturing and sending data to the cloud. There will be countless metrics, about everything—animate as well as inanimate.

The things in this revolution are just a gateway to this data. In the Internet of Things, data exists at an unprecedented scale, not just in terms of size and volume, but also in terms of diversity, type, and granularity.

Of course, the ultimate goal is not data in itself, but the value we will create from the data and from the powerful surge in its abundance. There will be so many opportunities to put these new data sets to valuable use that we cannot yet grasp the breadth of their impact and applications. Recall the limited change we thought the first cellular phone would bring, and what mobile computing now represents, just a few years later.

What most consumer IoT initiatives are offering today—a device or group of devices, a cloud and a service, forming an isolated data silo—provides immediate value. However, this is a minor fraction of what a digitized world will bring us.

First, in the world of consumers (along with business customers), silos are not a sustainable model. It will be impossible to lock consumers into a brand, given the diversity of products people interact with. Consumers will not want an excessive proliferation of services from many different brands. Instead, they will simply look for value: the relevant insights, critical predictions and smart automation, all using the “small” data or “smart” data made available by their lives. And it must be a painless experience that abstracts the underlying variety and complexity of data into something useful. As Mark Weiser put it years ago: “The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.”

Second, the true game changers enabled by IoT will come from data fusion: mixing up heterogeneous data signals to compute correlations and causations never possible before. In a future world with trillions of data sources, it would be extremely difficult to realize this potential if developers of the next generation of digital services need to gain insights across a myriad of siloed clouds, even with the best API-ification in place: the programming complexity would hinder most initiatives. To enable full data fusion, we need to emulate the model of the mobile ecosystems and their applications: Hide all underlying hardware and software complexity, and provide platforms to simplify and accelerate the creation of value.

We truly need places for developers to create new and incredible IoT-based services, where it’s easy to connect devices; and most importantly, where data can be accessed regardless of its origin, regardless of its type, and regardless of silos.

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Our Solution is SAMI

At Samsung, we have been working to create this place. It’s called SAMI.  Note to readers:  SAMI transitioned into a full commercial platform in April 2016 under a new name: ARTIK Cloud. Please see https://artik.cloud/.

We started less than three years ago, with this clear vision of IoT and a focus on its potential value. To create SAMI, we built a startup within a new Samsung group: Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center, whose mission is to accelerate innovation. Last year, we opened SAMI to the public.

SAMI is a place to create the next generation of IoT applications. It’s an open ecosystem for IoT developers to connect devices and create services easily, using IoT data, bypassing all the complexity of connectivity, storage, and data access. Far beyond ‘yet another IoT platform’, SAMI is a platform where there is no silo. Secure, seamless data fusion is at the heart of SAMI’s value proposition: it’s a secure data broker in the cloud.

We designed SAMI with three core principles:

  • It’s fully open. Data can come from any device. Devices are connected directly to SAMI or via an existing cloud (SAMI offers an open framework to easily create bridges with other clouds), so there are no silos from the developer’s perspective. SAMI is for devices from Samsung as much as from any other company in the world. And these may be devices of any kind and any profile: for instance, we have very simple devices currently sending one message per day, and others (like Simband, a digital health device) sending 1 million or more messages per day.
  • It’s data agnostic. We don’t believe in imposing new standards for IoT. Rather, we think cloud computing is the right answer to ingest data regardless of its format, size, or encoding. Devices send data in the manner that is most appropriate to them and their constraints. After SAMI collects it, we massage the data—”normalizing” the data to make it more accessible and easier to understand and use.
  • It’s a private data bank. Security and privacy are a big deal in IoT, and in SAMI the user always owns their data and grants access rights to only the services they wish to use. There are full security and privacy controls for developers and users to request and grant access to data. Samsung doesn’t claim any ownership over the data.

sami-architecture-overview

Most importantly, SAMI is a developer-oriented platform. We need to empower developers, since they are the ones who will collectively fuel the explosion of IoT-based services with their expertise and creativity.

Today, SAMI is focused on accelerating the road to build those applications that will unlock the promise of IoT. That means simple and powerful APIs for everything: data ingestion and retrieval, user and device management, and more. Similarly, we are continuously adding tools and features to help developers cut down efforts to implement custom logic in their services, such as a rule engine and a data visualization toolkit. All of these tools and APIs adhere to SAMI’s core principles—no silos, and fully data agnostic—and function with any data from any device.

The Internet of Things is essentially a data platform: let’s keep this big picture in mind as we connect everything, so that we can build the next revolution of digital services drawing from this unprecedented new data sphere. With SAMI as our contribution, we propose that enabling true data fusion is the future of IoT, and the gateway to launching and monetizing incredible new offerings for consumers.

Please visit us at http://samsungsami.io, follow our blog and look at our Developer site.

Note: We have spent the past year working with developers to build the best pricing model and plan to offer SAMI commercially in the coming months, including full integration with Samsung’s ARTIK platform for IoT.

Jerome DubreuilAbout Author

Jerome Dubreuil, Senior Director at SSIC; Twitter: @jeromedubreuil

One of the first members of SSIC, he joined less than three years ago to build SAMI and the team behind it. SAMI is a new kind of platform with a big vision for the Internet of Things: to break device/vendor silos and make any IoT data available simply and safely so developers can create real value for the consumer.

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