If connecting a smart device can create substantial customer value and you do not do it, your competitors will. Terry Ess provides a checklist of questions to consider and methods to evaluate. How much code is necessary for different options is covered in detail as well as the business case.
The idea that by the year 200x there will be more smart devices on the Internet than people has become widely accepted. You can already see it if you look at the most integrated manufacturing facilities. Everything from the factory floor up is being connected using web technologies. If connecting a smart device can create substantial customer value and you do not do it, your competitors will. So the questions in many cases is not should I do it, but how should I do it?
Answering the "how" question is highly dependent on a myriad of factors. Some of the more important are:
What is the value to your customer of the functionality enabled by connecting your smart device (an in-depth discussion of this can be found at http://www.silver-bullet-technology.com)? This will limit what you can do, by limiting the cost etc., and should be used as a key gauge to what functionality should even be considered.
What kind of data transfer volume must be sustained. In the IT world, web applications and services are often scaled to handle tens of thousands of transactions per minute? In general the volume of a smart device will be small, on the order of (10) messages a minute, but if this not the case you need to know.
What communication characteristics are needed? For instance, do you need near real-time synchronized communication or just periodic asynchronous reports? Should the information flow be initiated by the device or the external world?
What is being done in your industry? For instance if your device is a factory floor machine, you should consider OPC, especially the new XML data access specification.
What level of security is required?
Who is going to connect? There is a big difference between connecting a device with proprietary remote applications at the manufacturer's facilities versus connecting with any customerís supply chain applications.
Understanding the characteristics of your device given the chosen function(s) can be complex. A first order analysis of a potentially high value function for many devices, remote performance optimization, is summarized in Figure 1:
As you can see it requires a number of different steps with the remote application connected to the device, each with different characteristics. We can significantly change this applicationís potential value to customers by making both the configure and report steps synchronous and ending up with the capability to perform near real-time performance optimization.