To better grasp the significance of what the Internet of Things (IoT) represents, taking a look backwards for a moment may help. During the 1990's, a great potential developed to bring the Internet to the masses via creation of the web browser, as well as new deployment activity in submarine fiber cables to add communications capacity across the globe. The 2000's spurred developments in the mobile internet space which facilitated Internet connectivity on the go for businesses and consumers alike.

Added further is the use of sensor-based Machine to Machine (M2M) communications in the industrial sector for machine automation, the concept of which is said to date back to its analog roots in 1885 in thermostat use1.

In this decade and beyond, there is great potential for the IoT to build on that history and create a new industry connecting all forms of trivial objects to the cloud, on a global level. If this possibility eventually plays out as it should, it presents a significant development on many fronts, particularly since it could have a disruptive economic impact on a global scale2.

However, a main complexity in grasping IoT as a concept is its reliance on many industries to enable a data delivery ecosystem. For the business executive considering an IoT startup, innovating existing services, or considering funding options, a fundamental understanding of how this ecosystem interconnects is key to identifying where in the value-chain they operate.

In this article, a few questions are explored to help bring focus in this respect:

  1. Might there be a more intuitive business approach to gain perspective on an end-to-end IoT service delivery process?
  2. What reference framework might quickly present the gist of it? And,
  3. What meaning might be extracted from it all on a technology, business, and market level?

Presented from a service provider's point of view, this article attempts to address these areas briefly through illustration of a simplified data value-chain ecosystem.