Non-obvious Pitfalls of Ukrainian IoT Development
The contemporary world is organized by networks: roads and airports, production and retail, mass media and social institutions — any kind of people’s interaction constitutes a network one way or another.
Such a method of the structural relationship reflects the basic natural inclination of humans when it comes to the entire scope of their interrelations – communicating through the exchange of information.
Numerous types of interactive equipment beginning from robotics and up to mobile gadgets are developed to correspond the communicative paradigm where user interfaces mimic the human behavior.
The coming era of artificial intelligence is aimed at making human-machine communication such easy and natural as human-human one is.
Once AI is rather a matter of future, people attempt various efforts providing the currently existing “semi-intelligent” machines (or smart devices) with communicative capabilities that can simplify networking.
Arranging machine-to-machine (M2M) networks we are subconsciously trying to shift responsibility for making decisions onto machines.
No matter, whether it is our implicit desire to see even quite primitive devices as fully fledged interlocutors or just a clear manifestation of our innate sloth which is, as we know, the engine of progress.
Anyhow, being addicted to the “network of networks” - the Internet, people have managed to involve various inanimate objects into numerous autonomous networks coordinated via the Internet.
Now, a lot of things can communicate directly to each other without having humans as an intermediary. Such networks where a human “middleman” is irrelevant constitute what we call the Internet of Things (IoT).
Why smartphones are beyond the IoT
It may seem that everything connected to something else via a particular protocol can be referred to the IoT.
Nevertheless, such a really smart device as a smartphone does not belong to the IoT while a smart bracelet being obviously inferior to smartphones does.
Why? It is necessary to comprehend the ideology of IoT in order to understand the difference. Probably, the main requirement which makes any device belonging to the IoT is autonomy.
A smartphone can act autonomously under no circumstances. Quite the opposite, it is designed to be as interactive and user-dependent as possible.
In contrast to smartphones, a smart bracelet is intended to be an independent actor while sending various data to a user’s smartphone.
Some fitness trackers, for example, are developed in a maximally “invisible”, “non-sensory” manner that allows a user to forget about a device on his wrist.
We can say that such IoT devices as a fitness tracker from our example represent some particular function (or a set of functions) translated to some physical object capable of executing that function autonomously.
Thus, a primitive fitness tracker capable of sending some health-related data can be accepted as an “embodied heartbeat count”.
However, the simplicity does not keep the tracker away of such a complex phenomenon as the IoT. Actually, the majority of the devices involved in the IoT have quite a primitive design which can be represented by “a sensor + a transmitter” scheme in its essence.
The IoT simplicity is difficult
The very simplicity of the design makes IoT devices difficult for developing, how odd it may sound.
The biggest problem for software developers lies in compatibility. Not every widely-accepted network protocol can be applied to the IoT.
We have already described this issue in one of our previous posts dedicated to the IoT protocols’ standardization. It is no secret that the majority of software vendors used to go well-bitten paths of conventional development technologies.
There is nothing untoward in it once demand generates supply. The IoT paradigm is still immature to make each software vendor grasp quite narrow-specialized IoT technologies for just prettifying a project portfolio.
In fact, the number of software development companies is many times greater than the number of customers interested in the IoT projects.
However, the sustained growth of such an interest increases the number of potential IoT customers.
Besides, the number of the IoT hardware manufacturers grows in accordance with the ringing mass-media discourse propagating the IoT solutions as one of the fanciest trends along with AI and Big Data.
And here a true challenge appears in front of numerous software developers who are not enough IoT-savvy as well as to those customers who are looking for affordable solutions among software development outsourcers.
Two similar laboratories are … encouraging
Ukraine is famous for many local high-qualified but inexpensive software development companies.
The larger part of them constitutes a community of the software outsourcers (or custom software developers) sufficiently professional to be interesting for customers from the US and the Western Europe.
Are they so good in the IoT development as in mobile and desktop software solutions? It depends. The potential IoT customers should pay attention on the actually fulfilled projects rather than on self-promotion of Ukrainian software vendors.
Besides, there should be a special environment incentivizing IoT development on the national level. The more or less appropriate environment is available being represented by two biggest national cell connection providers – Vodafone and Lifecell.
They both offer mobile M2M network services (aka digital telemetry) covering various aspects of remote control for POS terminals, sensors, cash payment recorders, signaling systems, and many other commercial devices that can be connected through 3G mobile Internet.
The most significant Ukrainian project in the IoT was established by Microsoft in the form of “IoT Lab” (Internet of Things Laboratory) propagating Ukrainian startups intended to grasp the IoT segment.
Several young startups such as DeviceVoice and eNaturr rooted from IoT Lab’s support programme have already implemented their IoT solutions successfully.
Of course, a dozen or two of IoT vendors is a drop in a bucket for such a big community as Ukrainian software developers, but all in good time.
The most recent IoT event in Ukraine happened in Kiev on June 27. It is awesome, but another “IoT Laboratory” was established by Lifecell and Igor Sikorsky Kiev Polytechnic Institute. Two “IoT Laboratories” in one Country? Sounds promising.
Heavy-duty IoT solution is surprisingly available
However, how about something tangible made of “real metal” in the IoT segment of Ukraine? Who can show some IoT solution belonging to that “function embodied in physical material”?
No doubt, an interested customer can find samples of that category if attempts significant marketing efforts (not many but several ones should be available in any case).
When it comes to a specialized non-consumer equipment capable of serving industrial machinery in the segment of IoT (the so-called IIoT – Industrial Internet of Things), the choice remains far from being ample, unfortunately.
Although Ukraine is rich with its heavy industry, the IIoT keeps laying as terra incognita for the majority of Ukrainian software development companies.
Nonetheless, some rare notable exceptions are encouraging. The IIoT project ViDiSy meet every requirement of the Industrial Internet of Things.
The remote industrial vibration diagnostics it provides is usually associated with tech giants such as Siemens, for example, rather than with a local Ukrainian software vendor.
Moreover, the fact that the hardware-software complex of ViDiSy has been already in-field tested and implemented at several industrial enterprises makes Indeema Software Inc (the developer of ViDiSy) out of the ordinary.
It is not every custom software developer in Ukraine can boast of one’s own tangible product having a rich scientific background in addition! Being focused on far-reaching strategic goals of the IoT development, Indeema is leaving even much more famous local rivals behind.
Indeed, the ability to step back from the current immediate earnings (such unfortunate instance of many software outsourcers) allows Indeema to free up their mental and creative resources for entering a “club of progressive thinkers” without fear to become obsolete tomorrow when IoT paradigm dominates.
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