We are in a new era of computing. We passed the PC age a couple of years ago, and mobility has taken the post-PC era into another realm. The days of only PCs and servers speaking to each other over networks are over. The internet has been democratised and there are far more internet solutions available to us.
Primarily driven by consumers and mobility, today we have more connected devices than ever before, and these devices are talking to each other, sharing a plethora of valuable data. If we had to count all the devices connected to the internet at the moment, you are looking at around two billion connections that include computers, servers, and mobile devices. “The Internet of Things” (IoT) has become mainstream. The term was coined by the British technology pioneer Kevin Ashton, who proposed it back in 1999.
So what exactly is this “Internet of Things”, and why should we care? Well it is a big deal and businesses should care about the impact that this will have in the next decade. With the size of technology shrinking the way it has over the last three decades, communication devices, sensors, and chips have become so miniscule that they can now be embedded into things, turning them into a valuable resource of real-time information. The IoT is more than just an evolution of the internet. It is seen as a major transformation of the internet as we know it.
We are already seeing the rise of this evolution in the automotive industry. Insurance companies are putting telemetry systems to read your driving habits and your insurance premiums are determined by the way you drive. It goes even further than this. Through the digitisation of the IoT, a new economy of business models is being created across many segments. These connected “objects” will be embedded in almost everything we use in our daily lives.
Imagine if every appliance and electronic device in our homes had a sensor that spoke to the internet and shared information like electricity consumption. By being connected together, smart electricity grids would be able to prioritise energy usage in a far more efficient manner.
For manufacturing, being able to track materials and components in real time will lead to significant efficiencies and cost reductions in many organisations.
The medical field is another market that will see huge benefits from the IoT. They are designing slippers with sensors for example, which will be able to track the elderly and detect falls. Special clothing will keep track of our heart rates and blood pressure in real time.
Mark Hung, the former Vice President of global research and advisory firm Gartner, has predicted that, by 2020, 20 billion devices will be connected to the internet. He also states, “the IoT will have a great impact on the economy by transforming many enterprises into digital businesses and facilitating new business models, improving efficiency and increasing employee and customer engagement.”
But all of this comes with its own challenges. Businesses will need to equip themselves with the correct analysis tools to manage this tsunami of data and make sense of it.
The internet is, all of a sudden, developing a central nervous system that will be able to provide valuable information and predict situations before they happen. The IoT is coming at businesses faster than most people think, and those who aren’t prepared will not be as agile as they would like to be in a fast-changing technological world.