What is the Internet of Things?
We live in complicated times governed by the interconnectivity of processes, schedules, tasks, and systems. Activities are constantly monitored, analyzed, and calibrated to maximize efficiency. But what does all this connectedness and integration amount to? In short -- the Internet of Things (IoT), which we can think of as the intelligent approach to connect devices, integrate systems, and improve networks by leveraging and mining data gathered from reporting tools and sensors in physical objects and machines.
In essence, the Internet of Things is taking over the world.
Think of the IoT as an umbrella that forms a connected web of collective communications, operations, and procedures in an ever-growing array of industries. It does this all in an effort to make our lives easier, by mining data to be streamlined in a more automated and efficient world. In 2014, Gartner cited that the Internet of Things was the year’s most-hyped technology. But what does Gartner's (an American market research and advisory firm) message really mean?
But Just How is the IoT Taking Over the World?
Starting with the seemingly mundane task of waking up, imagine your alarm clock triggering a series of processes to help expedite your morning routine. Televisions turn-on to the morning news stations automatically, with weather and traffic reports immediately presented. Timers on your refrigerator’s software scan the appliance’s interior, broadcasting reminders to restock items and informing you of approaching food expiration dates.
Now imagine your house has programmable settings that are not only energy efficient, but safer as well. A sensor detects when air and water filters need replacing; scanners detect carbon monoxide leaks in all rooms -- not just the kitchen.
When you think about it, many of these efficiencies already occur in our daily lives. Our appliances go into a “power save” mode when they’re not in use and smartphone alerts serve as constant reminders for different tasks waiting to be completed. However, this is the tip of the iceberg -- in short, we are just now starting to see the impact that this world takeover will have on our lives.
How Does the IoT Connect Different Industries?
For starters, across industries consumer applications are centered around the integration of “smart” gadgets, wearable technology, and mechanical (and mechanized) devices across settings and environments. A few examples are the automated syncing and uploading of data from your smartwatch to your smartphone throughout the day or the continuous daily transfer of application data to your home computer and connected devices.
As with any consumable and rapidly-progressing technology, IoT continues to evolve. Research gathered by the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) indicates that mobile connectivity and Machine to Machine (M2M) solutions, which fall under the umbrella of IoT, have the capability to deliver and provide solutions that affect almost every industry of the modernized world. Private and Public Sectors are able to reap the benefits of the IoT as industries revolving around energy conservation and efficiency, physical and web-based security, manufacturing, education, health and medicine, retail experiences and ventures, and agriculture all utilize the power of the IoT.
Although the IoT sector is still burgeoning, the value of data capture has become increasingly important -- so much so, that within the next 10 years IoT will change the way people and enterprises approach life and business. Considering that wireless networks already connect mobile devices to one another via automation and the Internet with nominal human involvement, you can see how IOT might start to rapidly deliver solutions and provide services across industries. The coordination required to connect devices between and across industries is set to dramatically increase from 195 million global mobile connections as of 2013 to a projected 10.5 billion by 2020.
How are Industries Impacted by the IoT?
There’s more to the IoT than making daily life easier through automation and data cultivation. The “Industrial Internet” will explore the magnitude of business and economic implications unlocked by the IoT. The need to develop new business models built on the reliance of devices from a variety of vendors will reinforce the role of IoT. For example, logistics tools developed for a trucking company will also be utilized by farmers, whose tractor and combine software sends crop sowing and yield reports to the logistics company, triggering the next step in the harvesting process.
According to studies found in the July 2014 report on the IoT by the GSMA, the revenue projection and potential could be worth $4.5 trillion by 2020, industries such as security and public safety will dovetail into civil engineering and city planning industries. Cities will become “smart cities,” with interconnected networks of communication, surveillance cameras, and emergency response tools. Police and Fire departments will benefit from response systems that trigger the appropriate response to the triangulated affected area. Citizens will receive up-to-the-minute updates and reports for foot traffic, from offices to public transportation hubs in urban areas. Data mined from weather trends will help meteorologists report more accurately and logistics-heavy industries integrate more flexibility into their plans.
The IoT will also revolutionize the Healthcare industry. The management systems used by health care professionals and institutions will cultivate data, which will in turn be used to shorten wait times, keep patient health information and records up-to-date and accessible, and provide physicians with real-time analytics to help them best serve their patients. The medical industry will also see an influx of home-health care improvements, such as at-home monitoring systems that send data and diagnostics to primary care providers.
Will the Machines "Take Over”?
According to research conducted by Business Insider’s research service, BI Intelligence, “manufacturers will invest $140 billion in IoT solutions over the next five years.” Manufacturing industries are already at the forefront of supporting IoT solutions as factories, warehouses and plants, and production lines continue to edge toward automation in an effort to reduce costs. TATA Consultancy Services’ Global Trend Study 2015 reported industrial manufacturing as the big winner concerning revenue increase and cost savings thanks to the IoT integration.
With all this talk about integration and reliance on data and automation, we must recognize that the most important component regarding the Internet of Things is still people. These automations and revamped and improved processes only work when people set-up their environments, build the necessary networks, and make the connections to utilize the data cultivated by the IoT. More importantly, people are the driving force that create the ever-growing needs that the IoT leverages. In just one of many examples, traffic management is wholly contingent on people setting up the alerts, route modifications, tracking systems, and traffic trends in the first place.
Due to the burgeoning nature of the IoT markets, lasting impacts remain to be seen. People, however, will play a pivotal role in the integration power of the Internet of Things. Aside from the daily application of IoT-based technologies, enterprises will cross-connect industries and marketing; funding, deploying, and managing the IoT will continue to be driven by people. Ambitious individuals and groups at startups can benefit from the IoT just as much as the rural farmer, the city planner, and the air traffic controller.
What are the Major Barriers for the IoT?
Currently, the cost of production for many of these IoT-based technologies remains high. As with any industry-defining change, quality assurance revolving around the IoT should continue to take place in order to optimize the process and user experience. The power of the Internet will force businesses and governments to take a long, hard look at the IoT -- taking core principles such as security, data privacy, and ease-of-integration into account. To create a truly digital ecosystem, seamless data sharing between appliances, machines, data centers, and across global networks requires compatibility and further development of physical and digital technologies -- both of which are cost-heavy initiatives.
Additionally, innovative leadership has to include cost-conscious analysis to accurately develop methods of delivery for a world where the IoT can best serve people and enterprises. Obstacles will continue to present themselves along the way; funding, production, data governance and compliance issues, and regulations are but a few of the challenges in store for full IoT integration. In the meantime, keep an eye out for how data collection and cultivation continues to affect and change both industries and daily life.
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