Nowadays, all physical objects, entire factories, manufacturing plants, cars, and even natural environments such as rivers, can be connected directly to sensors in order to monitor and analyze the characteristics associated with each environment. These characteristics can include flow intensity, temperature, moisture levels, and location, to provide a few examples. In today’s connected world, networking technologies can enable these devices to connect to one another in order to share data with each other across data centres and different networks.
Jeremy Rifkin is the author of ‘The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism’ and recently published a post titled the ‘Third Industrial Revolution’. Jeremy suggests that in the future literally any aspect of our surrounding environment (physical objects and devices, human systems, and natural environments) will be able to connect with each other and interact. This new age of increased connectivity will herald a new era in terms of how we do business and communicate.
The Internet of Things represents a convergence of three key technological trends: the increased proliferation of mobile and social networks, the massive increase in the amount of data made available via new devices, and businesses ability to stimulate growth via the cloud. As the IoT continues to reshape the digital and physical world, there will be huge opportunities for innovative businesses. The Internet of Things will transform the way companies manage their operations by responding to analytics and real-time data with smarter decision making.
It’s estimated that 90% of data currently created via the IoT is not analyzed, interpreted, or utilized in any way. This means that valuable data is rarely actually used to make meaningful business decisions. This is where the true business opportunities lie within the IoT, not just in terms of leveraging the power of connected devices, but in terms of how we use data and insight to make intelligent decisions and boost productivity and shareholder value. As the cost of connecting these various technologies decreases, this increased level of connectivity will radically transform the way we do business and communicate. Here are the three major technological shifts that are increasing the number of IoT projects within the enterprise.
Increased Proliferation of Social and Mobile Networks
Mobile and social networks are creating new ways for businesses to engage with customers and radically altering the way internal processes are developed and managed. Mobile devices, combined with the use of enterprise social networks (think Salesforce Chatter rather than Facebook), are helping businesses to discover innovative and intelligent new methods of collaboration. Using these networks, apps, and devices can provide swathes of new data in real-time that facilitate smarter and more immediate decision making capabilities, giving business owners the power to interpret data and define the right strategic priorities as a result. All of these elements can be neatly combined together, not just to provide deeper levels of analysis for enhancing internal business processes, but also in terms of engaging new and existing customers at the touch of a button.
The Cloud Provides Increased Agility and Flexibility
The proliferation of cloud-based technologies has created a wide variety of opportunities that companies can now exploit in the pursuit of growth. Businesses can now respond quickly to rapidly changing external market forces and conditions because the cloud enables them to react to change faster and scale accordingly. The cloud enables businesses to scale up and down according to exact market demand, without paying for technical resources that are never used or redundant. Companies can now deploy new IoT-related products and services in a dramatically reduced time-scale, enabling them to connect staff and customers mobile devices and this is having a transformative impact on the global business environment.
Explosion of Apps and Connected Devices
The number of newly available apps and devices is creating a massive amount of data for businesses to analyse, interpret and use to make meaningful business decisions. There are some six billion web connected devices in the world today, with some analysts suggesting there could be as many as one trillion web connected devices globally between now and 2025 (IDC). These new, connected IoT devices include RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags, smart meters and household appliances, wearable devices and connected cars to name but a few. These devices and apps will enable businesses to gather huge amounts of data that will enable them to better understand how to deploy new products and services and increase revenue.
IBM and the Smarter Planet Initiative
In 2008 IBM launched the ‘smarter planet initiative’ in order to enable its clients to harness and tap into the potential of the IoT. The smarter planet initiative focuses on the fact that the world is increasingly becoming more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent. In terms of instrumentation, low cost devices and physical sensors are turning real-world occurrences and activity into huge amounts of data that can be collated, analysed, interpreted and acted upon. The interconnectivity element of the smarter planet initiative focuses on the fact that networks, apps and giant data centres can all be connected, and given the ability to directly communicate with one another, enabling innovative businesses to rapidly transform raw data into meaningful business information. The ‘intelligent’ aspect of the initiative focuses on the idea that all of this information can be collated and organised into actionable metrics in real-time at enormous scale, largely via the deployment and application of highly advanced analytics software.
The IoT Is Driving the Digital Transformation of Industry
The internet of things is helping to connect the digital and the physical world together. Instrumented devices are capable of gathering massive amounts of data, which in turn provide business leaders with the knowledge they require in relation to their surrounding physical environment in which they operate. This transformative process is all about turning information into actionable insight through analysis and constant optimisation based on the data. These new insights, and the decision making that arises as a direct result, enables businesses to formulate new product and service ideas that will fundamentally alter how they operate. Again, one of the key challenges associated with the IoT is possessing the right processes and resources to make sure that the vast swathes of data available are analysed and used to drive meaningful action. One of the biggest challenges associated with the IoT is the fact that most of the data produced is never captured or used to make meaningful decisions and drive transformation.
The IoT is bringing about new ways of thinking and operating, particularly when it comes to operations and manufacturing. Enabling different devices and apps to communicate with one another offers many benefits for manufacturers, from improved decision making, to increased productivity, optimised energy and inventory management and the ability to create customised products at a dramatically reduced cost. Intelligent IoT systems allow manufacturers to design, develop, deploy and optimise new products in a reduced timescale by connecting sensors, apps and devices at factory floor level. But in response to these changing technological opportunities, manufacturers will be forced to significantly overhaul their existing operations in order to take advantage.