The connected home is only a small fragment of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Perceptive technologists and developers are thinking much bigger — to city-size and even country-size opportunities built around data exchange portals that enable ‘smart,’ digital citizens and enterprises to mix and match connected technologies to complete limitless tasks.

Revolution, Not Evolution

It is not so much evolution as revolution, Esmeralda Swartz, VP of Marketing Enterprise and Cloud at Ericsson, told CMSWire recently. And data is at the heart of that revolution.

“We are evolving from a connectivity layer to an innovation platform and a transaction platform that will have people, industries, government connected. This is how you should think of the city portal or the city data marketplace,” she said.

Swartz spoke from Barcelona during the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016, which wraps up tomorrow. The conversation at the MWC has shifted from mobile phones and apps to the massive growth of the IoT.

The IoT is playing an increasingly important role for mobile vendors.

“We are in the midst of the societal transformation we call the Networked Society: a society in which mobility, broadband and cloud empower every person and every industry to reach their full potential,” Swartz said.

“Opportunity is everywhere, and companies are transforming according to the role they have chosen to play in the value chains and ecosystems of this Networked Society."

Levels of Connectivity

However, to think of the IoT as a single network encompassing everything from home cameras to traffic systems is a mistake, at least for the moment.

There are two levels of IoT in operation.

The first is what we have traditionally come to associate with the IoT, notably connected consumer products that are feeding data to organizations for a range of marketing and customer experience activities.

The second is the much wider area consisting of the industrial IoT (IIoT), which encompasses smart cities, and vertical-wide connections that provide services and data through goal-orientated portals, where interested players can cobble together whatever technology they need to meet targeted goals.

“Everything that can be connected will be connected,” Swartz said, although she added that we are still someway away from achieving this.

What is happening at the moment, she said, is akin to the industrial revolution:

“This modern day industrial revolution is being shaped by ubiquitous connectivity, machine to machine (M2M) communications, the Internet of Things (IoT), open APIs leading to a surge in new applications and services, partnerships and eventual marketplaces,” she said.

“The bottom line is that it is about having access to information and services — and when I talk services I am talking about services as a product in the sense that what was once a product is now be delivered as a service.”

The Role of Smart Cities

By 2020, Ericsson estimates that 26 billion devices will be connected together through the IoT.

This offers staggering growth opportunities for businesses as sensors, technology and communications come together to transform the city landscape for citizens and businesses.

These so-called smart cities will need to manage people and processes in much the same way as technology is managed. That will require a free exchange of data. 

“The value of a smart city will only be realized when data from distributed sensors across the city landscape can be analyzed and turned into information, available to digital citizens and businesses in a user-friendly way through a smart city data marketplace,” she said.

“It’s about open data, its mobility, digital ideas, new content and contextual personalized services. It’s about digital economy, it’s about CRM, it’s about CXM, it’s about data apps all coming together to make it work.”

The development of the IIoT is is already underway.

“There are a lot opportunities here in industries like manufacturing or agriculture. These are industries that have already started to implement sensor technology,” she said.

There are a number of challenges for both the IoT and IIoT, notably security and privacy. Swartz also adds that it must be proven reliable, especially for use at an industrial level.