March 20, 2020

Internet of Things vs. Intranet of Things

When will we see the real transition to IoT?

The Internet of Things… it’s been around for quite some time now, and it’s going to be around forever. Most of us have heard about new revenue streams here, new business areas there – but I have another angle to this thing we call IoT that challenges some of our ideas. It pops into my brain nearly every day, and I’ve got something to say about it. Get ready.

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IoT equals Internet of things – no one is questioning that… but I believe we all should.

Let’s run down a use case: First, you have a car using a device which connects to a cellular network via a private APN. Then, you connect it through a secure VPN or physical link to your backend. The backend collects the data and the data user is the one with all the knowledge. Then you have another car and another car and… whew. You get the picture.

Here comes the big question: Where is the Internet in this picture? So, now let’s take another look. You have your private APN, your private VPN, your firewall-secured backend… I’m just having a tough time finding the ‘inter’ in this Internet of Things equation.

As it stands today, what we really have is Intranet of Things, not Internet of Things. What I mean by that is that everything is connected ‘single-homed’, which means you have one device speaking to your backend and another device also speaking to your backend, but they never speak to one another. Of course, they could speak to one another, but I wouldn’t recommend because it’s not secure. So, how do we solve this?

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I’m not saying all connections should go public, and use some well-known APN, and then off you go out onto the public Internet. I’m not that reckless – and neither are you.

What I am saying is that the backends need to move closer to each other. They need to connect, they need to talk to one another. While you might not see the benefit today, if you think back fifteen or twenty years did you see the advantages of connecting everything then? Most of us did not.

And hey – just as I sat myself down to write this, I noted that Cisco and Microsoft is now connecting their cloud backends for IoT – way to go, and the first step has now officially been taken! From here, there needs to be a new commercial model in place between the involved parties/cloud/backend players. Personally, I don’t have many clues on how this could or should look like (I’m far too technical to have a proper idea here). Like, will it be charged per data, telco-style? Or something else, completely new? The answer is hopefully only around the corner now.

However, the next IoT challenges are yet to come. Why do I say this? Because there simply is no Internet of Things. At least, not yet. The honest truth is that we are not going to see the transition from Intranet-to-Internet of Things – what we are going to see is Intranet-to-Extranet-to-Internet. Extranet connects two or more Intranets and can be partially accessed by authorized outside users, which in turn allows businesses to exchange information over the Internet in a secure way. Extranet is the bridge between the Intranet, which is internal, and the Internet, which is open, external, and public. And this is how I think we will move from Intranet of Things to Internet of things.

I think we should all look forward to these changes and embrace them instead of fighting them too hard. IoT will become EoT before we will see IoT doing its big-bang comeback.

And it will be one hell of a ride for all of us who are in the thick of it. What are your thoughts? Get in touch.

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