SimulTrans Localization Blog: SimulTips

Challenges of Localizing IoT Content

[fa icon="calendar"] August 11, 2016 / by Joanne Rodgers

Challenges of Localizing IoT content.png

Following last week’s blog, which addressed – and demystified - the what, how and why of the latest technology trend, the ‘Internet of Things’ or IoT, this week we’re taking a look at the topic from another angle: localization.


The IoT promises to make the objects we interact with every day ‘smart’ producers of data that can be used for everything from keeping track of the contents of your fridge to managing your health. According to Gartner Inc., we are projected to have 21 billion such objects in use globally by 2020. The IoT is deeply entwined with the move towards smart technology. Machine-to-machine communication, data collecting sensors and cloud computing allow devices to accomplish a great deal.

But what localization-specific challenges are associated with this global connectivity growth?

Let’s investigate…

  • 1. Volume of Data

The collection of data is a cornerstone of the IoT. However, data is essentially useless if it cannot be translated into a usable form. For instance, a sensor that detects icy road conditions beneath the tires of your car is only helpful if it can communicate that information in a meaningful way. Plus, the amount of data that can potentially be collected can quickly become overwhelming. If a sensor captures data once every minute, this would result in 1,440 data samples per day. What if there are 10 sensors that each capture data once per second? Translating this mass of data for your global customer base presents a big headache.

A solution?

Machine Translation (MT) or Automated Translation allows for increased productivity, reduced translation time, and greater cost savings. Mass data can be processed in real time where human translation has thus far been cost-prohibitive. According to the Common Sense Advisory, MT is profoundly changing the landscape of the language industry with usage rates making steady gains.

Will it be possible to human post-edit the MT output for IoT volumes of this magnitude? Unlikely. Rather a combination of careful engine customization and evaluation plus integrated terminology management will help to significantly boost productivity without compromising quality.

How? A two pronged approach is best:

1.    Aim to create more MT-friendly controlled source content focussing on correct spelling, punctuation and unambiguous constructions.

2.    Adjust and modify your MT engine ensuring high level coding for rule based systems, or training with clean, high quality, domain/client-specific content (such as corpora) for data-driven or hybrid systems.


  • 2. The need for speed

IoT will significantly change the way products are developed and released across all industries. Software developers will have to transition away from traditional long release cycles taking many months, and respond to updates on a daily, even hourly basis. Agile localization will be crucial. Language Service Providers (LSPs) are already accustomed to agile practices within the paradigms of mobile, cloud computing and big data but the IoT whirlwind is about to make things even faster.  There will be rapid, regular, time-critical content distribution across multiple devices and channels. Your language strategy will need to be proactive which is why it makes sense to leverage automated technology and continuous translation workflows.

A solution?

Integrate localization into development cycles enabling advanced scheduling of translators, reviewers and engineers. And synch these resources with the latest Translation Management Systems (TMS), such as Smartling, which offer a modern, streamlined, agile solution to the more traditional waterfall localization process.

In-context translation is an added benefit. In the TMS the source text is visible in the translation interface. Translators can make adjustments in real time, removing the guesswork.  Sizing issues are avoided as translators can see space limitations – especially important for app/mobile localization. Time-consuming and costly back-and-forth is eliminated resulting in fewer QA cycles – or none at all if IoT time constraints don't allow.

In an increasingly fast paced, connected world of smart IoT devices, TMS combined with a professional LSP will prove worthy of investment for companies who want to transform the way their content is created and consumed internationally.


  • 3. User Experience

Having amazing devices, platforms and smart integration is one thing. But often the most important person – the user – is forgotten about. How the user interacts with IoT technology could signal success or failure. If connected devices are to be adopted on a global scale, users speaking a wide range of languages will have to understand them. Essentially IoT device makers will need to distribute professionally localized content that caters for local idioms, current slang, and social and linguistic trends. Being ‘Glocal’ will be key.

How does localization fit in?

Users will want IoT devices and apps in their local language and adapted for their culture. Formats for date, time, temperature scales, measurement systems, currency, icons, etc. will have to reflect the user’s specific target market. Changes in digital marketing and consumer buying trends will no doubt result in even more audio, video and animated content to enhance the user experience. Voiceover scripts will need to be transcribed and / or recorded (and potentially lip-synched), on-screen text translated, or subtitles added. Your LSP will need the latest multimedia localization tools, access to a large pool of studios, sound engineers and voice artists, plus a well-planned process to meet IoT user expectations.


The Internet of Things has the potential to improve lives, increase efficiency, promote safety and more. With increasing IoT enablement comes responsibility - the localization industry must prepare and make strides in technology and automation in order to make fast, efficient and accurate IoT data translation a reality for all users around the world.   

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Topics: Localization Technology, International Business Strategy

Joanne Rodgers

Written by Joanne Rodgers

Joanne holds a BSc in Applied Computational Linguistics (with French) and MA in Translation Studies, both from Dublin City University (DCU). Joanne has spent 10 years in the localization industry helping companies engage global customers.