From the very beginning of the development and implementation of IoT, the complexity of IoT products and systems is raised in the scope of digital business transformation and in the sphere of smart technologies. Anyway, the conclusion since 1999 when Kevin Ashton published the term „The Internet of Things“, the implementation of IoT in business is not such a simple task. In that sense, it is always added that the complexity of an IoT system is related to the definition of a technology stack so the management process seems to simultaneously control multiple different technologies. To integrate all components of an IoT system (hardware, software, protocols, platforms …) into a smooth functional solution, it is necessary to present the IoT technological roadmap.
But what exactly is an IoT technology roadmap: is it a simple list of product/system components, a description of tools, protocols, and application schemes within the system or already a blueprint designed to make any product or strategy successful within the IoT ecosystem. In addition to the technical aspect of establishing the IoT roadmap, there are others such as the National IoT Strategic Roadmap and then the corporate roadmap that define IoT on some industrial verticals (Energy, Nanotechnology, Automotive, Cognitive Science …).
Why do we need technology roadmap inside IoT?
The very breadth of the concept and the roadmap is based on the more general steps of administration and evaluation of tech-stacks in order to strategically define the technology initiative that assists in the process of constituting IoT products / ecosystems including research and development.
As the IoT product/ecosystem contains IT / internet technologies and various organizational processes, the roadmap should help us to define the time frame in which the initiatives of technological processes will be implemented. Then, it is very important in answering the question of naming the business goal that will be achieved, i.e. how technology, applications, processes, etc. will help the growth of an organization or system that implements the technology roadmap.
Along with the definition of tech-stack and business-enhancing roadmap processes, it is essential to have clearly documented developmental processes that should in practical terms show the steps that need to be taken into account in the development process. This implies declaring existing and predictions of future technological solutions that can help achieve the goal of an efficient IoT product / ecosystem. With this, it is necessary to answer the question as to how the infrastructure status will be changed within the tech-stack process, which feature should possess or possess the IoT product/ecosystem. Then, what are the tools, external and internal, that are used in some stages of development. Of course, with all this, it is very important that the roadmap answers questions about how security processes in all processes will be implemented in these processes. Finally, the IoT technology roadmap needs to respond to questions related to tracking and update UX processes (menus, drag-and-drop, onboarding and branding …)
In practical application, besides these, depending on the IoT product / ecosystem type, there is also an element of ownership, operating elements (source mapping, templating, web filtering …), how to load reduction (API hooks technology, load / defer balancing, utilizing metrics) and in many cases service quality parametrizing (training, availability & alerts density, ISO certification …)
Inside IoT roadmap
Looking from the IoT system and product perspective, an IoT technology roadmap is some kind of action plan which has to propose ingredients and behavior inside system – in other words, a digital transformation process with feedback based on data intelligence accompanying with diverse IoT products/assets, operations and people as customers as well as employees within digital systems.
In addition to this logical division within the IoT roadmap, it is imperative to add another dimension that determines the characteristic of the IOT ecosystem – time scale. The timeline is important as accurate observations have been made in the previous period as well as expectable forecasts for the near future. Such anticipation can also be the basis for a deeper overview of the IoT technology stack around the current IoT ecosystems and platforms on which they are largely based. One of the most used illustration is below presented IoT roadmap time scale connected to technology roadmap.
Some of the known vendors promote their corporate visions for the IoT roadmaps, such as Windows:
Then AWS IoT approach to its roadmap concentrated to real tech-stack with focus on current offer of device software, control services and data services.
Or as Intel infographic on their approach of IoT roadmap based on platform that gives possible reducing on complexity of IoT development including better security and scalability:
At most of the request, an IoT system shall be a working solution and consider all layers of the IoT technology stack. Whether it is a commercial, industrial, or connected home resale, the elements that complement IoT tech-stack, no matter which type of reference architecture is used at the base level are:
Represented elements of the tech-stack belongs to the IoT reference architecture and its ingredients such as sensors, actuators… However, building of a high level IoT ecosystem requires, in addition to these basic elements, some more resources to make the IoT roadmap complete and usable. Several different stakeholders need to engage to fully understand the principle and functionality of the future IoT ecosystem, e.g. Executives, Sales, Marketing, and Engineering must work together on the definition of tech-stack.
Additionally, added the inclusion of the descriptive element, so-called story mapping that introduces a novel into a roadmap that enhances understanding of the details and completes the level of IoT tech-stack. The combination of story mapping in IoT tech-stack provides visual product backlog with enough information that is needed for day to day work. This approach gives clear understanding which layers are impacted on every single release by featuring tech-stack into IoT roadmap. Also, by releasing and addressing necessary layers, the IoT architect has an ability to optimize way of building blocks into system roadmap with keep an eye on the bigger picture but still with focus on smaller details and thus improve functionality.
Another step of extension IoT tech-stack to improve technology roadmap is on including IoT decision framework. This is related to improved access to structured questioning and navigation through certain layers and to make better decisions. The elements around which the framework is based are as follows:
- User Experience (UX) – In this part, we are not considering technical details but just user needs, try to understand on the best possible way who is the user.
- Data – This represents data Decision Area, a definition of overall data strategy and data flow through all layers on a technology roadmap. Decisions about device data types, type of analytics and data volume for cloud operations.
- Business – In this part, the business decisions shall be determined such as the economic potential of the IoT product/system, in other words, how to monetize the solution.
- Technology – This decision area shall give a strong overview of engineering nature about hardware needs, device software, a topology that can be used, communication protocols, and sensor descriptions. Also, if some cloud solution shall be involved, the decision factors for that and propose requirements for a complete technical solution.
- Security – Decisions on how each layer could be compromised, how to respond to if any of the devices are hacked, and what technology to implement on securing tech-stack for the complete roadmap.
- Standards & Regulations – Area to clarify decisions on regulations and standards which can be affected to each layer based on the type of product, industry source and customer orientation. Also, some additional elements shall be declared, such as conformity according to device safety, law to comply at each layer of the roadmap.
At each individual layer, an evaluation of each decision element is necessary.
From the aforementioned, it is said that for a successful definition of the technological roadmap of an IoT product, in addition to a well-defined tech-stack i.e. selection of appropriate architecture, it is necessary to consider the business needs so that the roadmap is complete and the final product/solution is defined. This together strengthens the connectivity of all stakeholders in the process of implementing the IoT ecosystem, simplifies process monitoring during development and testing as well as good end product performance, which together brings customer satisfaction.