The Internet of Things and How it Affects Localization

122177295What is the Internet of Things (IoT)? It’s a popular buzzword describing a technological capability and environment where everything is connected to the Internet, creating “intelligence” for dumb devices. Physical objects are transformed to smart objects, which can be interlinked through the Internet.

The IoT is an important concept with regards to the future of the Internet. The IoT depends on a technological architecture where physical objects with sim cards and sensors communicate with structures, like the cloud, to send and analyse data, using IP.

One basic example is an oil tank telling a fuel supplier it is nearly empty, prompting the supplier to automatically visit and refuel. Or a waste bin telling the local services provider when it is full and needing collecting, rather than having a set waste collection schedule. Your central heating could switch itself on when it knows you are five miles from home. The opportunities in the health and medical device industries are huge. As a runner, I know there are all manner of wearable trackers that can monitor my health. In years to come, maybe if my heart were to reach dangerous levels, an ambulance would be automatically notified and find me through a GPS tracker and ECG data fed through directly to my heart specialist.

It all sounds very impressive and efficient. However, a fully functioning IoT is still a way off. The IoT may not be realized over the next few years; however, it is on the not-too-distant horizon based on analysts and prognosticators.  Cisco forecasts that the economic value of the Internet of Everything, a Cisco coined buzzword to explain smart objects, will be $19 trillion in 2020.

It is reported that some 20 billion or so IoT devices are already in place and connected through the Internet. Computers are communicating and we can experience IoT today, especially if we are an inquisitive early adopter. We watch web-connected television and certain car manufacturers are selling “auto” cars that can park themselves and can be called by their drivers with a smartphone app. Although technological capability may be ready, there is a whole bunch of standardization and commercial miles to cover before all devices and appliances are working at our beck and call.

So what impact will the IoT have on localization?

Just as the software industry looks forward to create and develop the next big technological capability, so must the localization and language industry. If the inanimate objects that we use in our everyday lives are one day going to be smart, what impact will this have on the localization and translation industry? The cloud, social and mobile technologies are key growth areas and they are all areas that further enable global markets. Future software and technologies must increasingly speak to global markets in a local language to enhance user experience.

More Agile Development.

One key shift will be how software companies change the way they develop and launch their products. Software providers and vendors have been providing applications and infrastructure technology to support the cloud and that will support the IoT vision. This has means a shift away from traditional product releases, typically developed using the waterfall approach where product release cycles are long, sometimes up to 18 months, and moving towards a more responsive, the agile way of development. To meet global market demands, new applications, features, updates and patches have to be released every day, not every year. It would seem that to have a future in this new software market, agile is the only way to work to meet current and future demand.

This shift towards agile has transferred across to the localization teams. Short shelf lives and agile production cycles mean agile localization cycles. If agile runs on a concept of regular releases, so agile localization must follow suit. Regular set hours and localization resources must be in place to match the agile sprints – not just the software strings and UI, as well as all supporting materials, online assistance and help documentation. Localization becomes an integral part of the overall development cycle and is moved upstream. See Welocalize case study – F-Secure: predictable & consistent software localization

Shift in content types.

As the number of smart devices increase, then volumes of printed content will reduce and more content will appear on mobile or tablet screens – in small, bite sized pieces, updated more regularly. This may also generate an increased usage of audio, video or animation to create a more enhanced user experience and interface. This will impact the localization industry as it requires a different set of skills and resources. Multimedia localization can be a lengthy process, especially if it requires sourcing voice talents and recording studios. If language service providers (LSPs) are involved in the development of content from the outset, then this will make the translation and localization process more efficient and cost-effective.

Understanding how the software industry is changing will help top-tier LSPs, like Welocalize, to shape services and solutions, to meet growing global demand.

According to Gartner in 2014, “the Internet of things is the most over-hyped technology in development today… putting the IoT technology, where every electronic device has a sim card and its own presence, on the net, at five to 10 years from actual productivity.” Probably accurate and sage advice; however, we need to be thinking about the future because before you know it, our smart phone will be telling our smart oven to get the dinner on and we’ll need our localized operating manuals to make it happen!

One of the themes for this year’s Localization World in Berlin, 3-5 June, is the Internet of Things and many of the discussions will focus on how this technological capability will impact localization. I look forward to meeting and hearing from industry colleagues and clients on how they think IoT will affect their industry and impact global business.


Louise Law is Global Communications Manager at Welocalize