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Most of the buzz around this year’s Sensor Expo in San Jose has revolved around the role of sensors as the conduit to gathering and collecting data for the IoT, whether the application be medical, industrial, consumer, or military. At the first of two keynote sessions Thursday, Jason Shepherd, Senior Director and IoT Chief Technology Officer for Austin, TX-based Dell Technologies, said that the industry would have to rapidly evolve their digital infrastructures to handle an ever-mushrooming amount of data, as more sensors and other devices link to the IoT.

“A rapid pace of innovation is needed,” Shepherd told the audience. “The speed at which you can do this would be a competitive advantage going forward.”

Changes in digital infrastructure could not follow the traditional paradigm of developing new products and services, where products are developed and user feedback gathered before updates, according to Shepherd. Instead, new products and services must continually evolve with additional features in a proactive manner. Because hardware changes take time, software would have to drive this evolution.

Shepherd cited Tesla’s vehicle as an example of a product where software updates are ongoing. “You need to constantly connect with customers, and create an ecosystem of improvements.”

Citing another example, Shepherd noted that the pizza chain Dominos has over the past few years created a number of apps and other online tools to order pizza. He noted that the chain now generates 60 percent of sales from these tools and has overtaken Pizza Hut as the leading pizza chain.

Any successful IoT strategy should consider solutions that funnel data to edge gateways instead sending everything to the cloud, according to Shepherd. “You need to extend cloud-native principles to the edge to enable IoT agility and scale. You need to put some of the computing closer to device to perform buffering and filtering of data to reduce data bottlenecks. Also, as network bandwidth is expensive, you can layer features like security closer to the device.”

Shepherd acknowledged that there is no single solution that will clear up the hodgepodge that characterizes the IoT. He called for improved industry-level interoperability between many diverse elements. “There is a paralyzing number of platforms out there—different protocols, different OS.” He said the use of distributed networks and computing would be more effective than centralizing all data and networks.

Shepherd also endorsed the use of open source code and standards, citing their effectiveness in faster software development.

“You need to think about long-term value creation and architect for flexibility and interoperability,” Shepherd said in closing. “You can start small and then build up.”

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