The Internet of Things (IoT) in Portugal is keeping up with international pace of development. Frederico Muñoz, Smarter Cities Solution Architect at IBM Portugal, explains how the national market is evolving and marks out analytical solutions and connectivity between mobile devices and sensors as the main fields of the IoT the tech giant will be betting on.
How do you see the IoT developing in Portugal?
The growth of the IoT in Portugal is not separate from the international scene, as one of the main consequences of the growing intercommunication capabilities that the IoT has brought about is the reduction of distances and the capacity to develop solutions which can work both locally or globally, which can help launch projects developed in Portugal internationally.
How has the national market been evolving?
The national market seems to have benefitted a great deal from something typical of the IoT’s philosophy: by being based on universal communication between devices, and therefore, on a capacity to produce and consume data, the IoT stimulates the appearance of initiatives and companies which can address specific needs. And in this way, creating a real ecosystem of integrated solutions becomes essential, something which IBM has been promoting through the various projects it’s a part of and where we are working together with various service providers. This “democratization” of data access, typical of the IoT, is essential to understanding the vitality found in different fields, from home automation to solutions for social issues, which is boosted by start-ups and research centres connected to academia. On the other hand, we are also optimistic about the growing awareness of public entities of the potential of the IoT, as an essential part of strategies aimed at improving services for citizens, often as part of the Smart Cities vision. This change has been clearly noticeable at the “Cities of the Future” conferences which IBM has been hosting the past few years.
What opportunities does this afford your company, nationally?
The Internet of Things is certainly one of the fields which has found great support in IBM’s strategy over the past few years, as it moves toward new areas of value. As the IoT is, in a sense, a “new frontier of value”, by opening up entirely new horizons in the equipment and universal communication capabilities of a wide range of devices, which involves a host of different fields, such as communication, infrastructure, data models, transformation and integration patterns, and above all, an exponentially larger capacity to analytically process the large volume of data which is produced. The fact that the IoT presents challenges on so many fronts – which are, ultimately, interconnected – is in a way what multiplies the opportunities it provides and what gives IBM a unique position, since we provide solutions in all of these fields, adding up to a transversal and integrated answer to these challenges.
What solutions is IBM betting on?
We’re betting on analytical solutions like the IBM Watson, the ultimate in cognitive computing, which is essential to respond to one of the IoT’s main challenges: the need to process information into something truly useful. This is obviously important for both the national and international market and IBM has been working with partners and clients in Portugal to develop this kind of technology. Another example is the interconnectivity of mobile devices and sensors, which we have also been working on here in Portugal. During a fire emergency drill in Chiado, Lisbon, in August 2013, the platform developed by IBM showed how the IoT can be crucial in collecting dispersed data – from fire detectors, ambulance GPS devices, etc – and transforming it into readable information, enabling a rapid response. IBM’s Bluemix platform is key here, by allowing the fast development of fully integrated IoT applications.
Is our infrastructure ready for this?
The infrastructure sustaining communication for sensors and other devices is a very important issue in the national panorama. The increase in interconnected devices will make the GSM network and other current solutions unsustainable, so technologies enabling long distance communication and low energy consumption (such as the LoRaWan technology, which IBM has made openly available) will be essential to IoT’s growth.