March 10, 2014

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The Internet of Things

The internet of things (IoT) is predicted by Gartner to be one of the top strategic technology trends for the year 2014.  It is expected to become one of the most disruptive technologies in the next decade, predicted to grow to 26 billion installed units by 2020. In addition, Gartner predicts that IoT product and service suppliers will generate incremental revenue of over $300 billion (£180 billion), mostly in services by 20201.

IoT is set to grow rapidly, making our lives easier as more and more data accumulates due to our online activities.

You may ask yourself, what is IoT? IoT is commonly known throughout the tech world as a concept that describes how the Internet will expand as physical items such as consumer devices and physical assets are connected to the Internet.

The effects of IoT on organisations and consumers today

IoT has generated a lot of hype overtime as an emerging technology. Originally, it was mainly adopted by start-ups. But recently, more and more large companies are beginning to adopt this new technology to innovate. For example, tech giant Google just acquired start-up company Nest  for $3.2 billion (£ 1.9 billion), a company that creates smart thermostats and smoke detectors that learn and react to homeowners’ behaviour.

Another example is Quirky, who has recently partnered with GE. Together, these two companies are creating a whole line of consumer products that allow people to use smart IoT enabled devices to connect to other devices around the home. The combined visions of both Quirky and GE have also led to the creation of the Nimbus, a personal dashboard with a real-time reader that tracks weather, traffic, social network status, email, health monitoring levels, and more. It is a central control hub that helps to manage data by leveraging the internet.

Due to the success of these pioneering organisations, many companies across industries have begun utilising this emerging technology for an array of solutions such as more efficient supply chains, leaner inventories and logistics data collected straight from machines and devices.

IoT is set to revolutionise the way machines communicate and connect to the internet in our homes, vehicles and appliances.  It is transforming businesses by making everyday things smarter. In the future, this technology will be able to leverage a machine’s ability to learn and become more self-aware. In particular, many futurists believe that IoT will be applied to help robots work more effectively with sensors. The artificial intelligence (AI) within a machine is continuously learning to understand consumers’ needs leading to better insight based on knowledge collected over time.       

The Challenges with adopting IoT

The big data that is collected by machines is not an unmitigated good. Like many things in society, in fact probably all things, it comes with some challenges. One of the biggest challenges is privacy.

IoT is still an emerging technology and there are no real regulations set in place yet.  Organisations need to find a balance between innovation and risk before entering a new venture as it may infringe on data privacy. Or even worse, this information could become vulnerable to hackers that might use the information to track what time users are in their properties, stop devices from working remotely or steal personal data about an individuals everyday activities. Recently, there have been many cyber-attacks to smart devices such as computers, smart appliances and other internet-connected devices that have been co-opted for illicit purposes by a group called IoT botnet (Internet of Things botnet).

Some companies are working around these challenges by creating additional security measures. For example, Chinese giant Huawei will be launching its own version of smart TV remote controls that incorporate biometrics technology allowing users to login using their fingerprints. This will create a more secure environment for the users as they will be able to set parental locks or order online using the finger scanner.

To limit the risks, organisations need to have the right frameworks in place to keep user data safe and develop security policies that are in line with industry standards.

The future of IoT

Despite these challenges, IoT is continuing to grow and make an impact. It has the potential to help organisations make more insightful predictive decisions about their customers through the use of real-time analytics. In the near future, big data will play a more profound part in the way this technology can advance and unlock new opportunities.

One example of an upcoming trend incorporating IoT is vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications. In the near future, V2V communications will comprise of wireless networks where automobiles can communicate and send messages to each other with information about what they’re doing. In addition to V2V, there is vehicle to infrastructure (V2I), communication incorporating smart traffic lights, speed camera, and parking meters. This technology has the potential to manage vehicles and inter-vehicles’ distances on the road helping to lower emissions, decrease fuel consumption and steady traffic velocities.

Is your business ready

It is easy to see that IoT is here to stay.  With the level of growth expected over the coming years as well as the large investments being made by well-known enterprises, the potential for IoT is growing rapidly.

The solutions that can stem from IoT are limitless and can present an array of opportunities for the future. The next step for many companies towards a more connected way of doing things will involve building the right ecosystem to enable IoT. This will involve building the right skills, people and in some cases creating an entirely new value chain.