Published on:

6 December 2015


Rachael Adams

Business Futures – The Internet of Things (IoT)

“From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere”. 

Dr. Seuss

Much has been written about the Internet of Things (IoT) since the phrase was coined, as long ago as 1999, by a rather forward-thinking Brit, Kevin Ashton. Most reports centre on specific (and rather futuristic) applications. Even Dr Seuss himself could not have predicted just how many ‘funny things’ would emerge thanks to recent technology developments. While IoT hasn’t been a major focus for a lot of businesses, others are powering ahead with some very creative applications.

Put simply, the IoT is a network of devices with integrated connectivity. The value and service they achieve is in exchanging data.  Driven by lower cost internet, cloud computing and smaller, less expensive electronic sensors, the trend is fast moving towards mainstream.

Now is a good time for executives to ask themselves, what is the Internet of Things (IoT)?  Why do I need to care about it?  Will I prosper or fail based on my approach to the trend?

Analysts predict 25 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2019, a growth rate between 40% to 76% year on year – a revenue stream not to be sneezed at.  Since IoT hardware will only account for 8% of an estimated $7 trillion market in 2020, it will be left to software makers and infrastructure companies to earn the lion’s share.

The IoT isn’t all about talking washing machines and driverless cars, though. IoT has the potential to transform the way we live, work and manage our wellbeing. In a simple form, people are now tracking their sleep patterns, working out what food or drink affects the quality of their sleep and how many hours’ sleep are required for a productive day.  Taken further, devices could advise a pilot or heavy equipment operator whether they are safe to operate at their current sensed condition.

IoT’s tantalising benefits of efficiency and lower costs, largely achieved by giving greater control to the user, are balanced by cautions elsewhere. Security issues, have led to a predominantly guarded approach to devices.

Apple’s new HealthKit and HomeKit apps are perfect examples of where IoT is heading. Users can manage everything from their fitness to their home security via their iPhones, no matter where they are at the time.

Currently trending IoT technologies include:

  • Fitness devices (Fitbit)
  • Security (Nest)
  • Home automation (Xfinity)
  • Baby monitor (Mimo)
  • Music (Sonos)
  • Cars (Tesla)
  • Watches (Pebble)
  • Tracking (trackdot)

In the corporate world, meanwhile, companies are adopting big data analytics to make better, faster decisions thanks to the ever expanding pool of information they have at their disposal.  This trend is necessarily prompting new data security and risk considerations.

It all makes for better managed, more intuitive customer service, but when does data collection and analysis cross the creepy line? These technologies may be a management breakthrough in the workplace, but managed clumsily, there is a danger they will be interpreted as invasive and smacking of Big Brother tactics.  Open communication and clear policies have never been more vital. Without building trust, the benefits will be unclear to the team, and the opportunity may be missed.

When the data of connected people, processes and assets is harnessed, the sky is the limit. Your business or even your whole industry could potentially be transformed, as we have seen with companies such as Uber and Airbnb.  Improved efficiencies or even entirely new revenue sources are within reach in a changed technology landscape, only limited by your imagination and the right know-how.