Ready for the Internet of Things?
The excitement around IoT’s capabilities can also create a sense of uncertainty about the future for many businesses, which are forced to confront the challenges of understanding this emerging technology and utilising it to enhance competitive advantage. In a world of big data, companies must be favourably positioned to collect, analyse and capitalise on enormous amounts of data from customers, suppliers and even products.
What is the Internet of Things?
The term Internet of Things was coined by entrepreneur Kevin Ashton in the late 1990s. IoT represents a vision in which physical items are not disconnected from the virtual world but are in fact controlled remotely, acting as physical access points to internet services. IoT consists of things that are connected to the internet, anywhere, anytime. In essence, it means that any physical thing with computational abilities and will be connected to the Internet and to other devices.
With IoT, services can be made available to interact with smart objects or devices over the internet, and even change their state and any information associated with them, but always taking into consideration security and privacy issues. Depending on the focus of the concept, IoT covers areas which include ubiquitous computing, ambient intelligence, wireless sensor networks, situated computing, machine-to-machine learning and interactions, industrial internet, web of things, connected environments, Smart Cities and so much more. IoT applications apply to every industry and have diversity of application covering:
• Hospitality, health and personal care;
• Infrastructure and automotive;
• Equipment and parts;
• Food and utilities;
• Retail, agriculture, construction;
• Clothing and shelter - smart clothes, smart homes, smart buildings;
• Materials, commodities and luxury items, etc.
How does it work?
The Internet of Things is made possible by having several different connections between computerised devices, human to human, human to device and between devices. IoT creates a world where physical objects are seamlessly integrated into the information network, and what’s even more fascinating is that the physical objects can become active participants in business processes. All this creates a self-configuring network which is much more sophisticated and dynamic than the traditional internet. IoT is comprised of integrating sensors and devices in everyday objects connected to the Internet over wireless or fixed networks. Information about things is collected and processed with very small computers which tend to be mostly RFID tags that are connected to more powerful computers through the networks.
IoT’s primary function is to move data from one point to another quickly, reliably, and securely. Simply put, the Internet of Things is the concept of everyday objects – from wearable devices to industrial machines being able to make use of built-in sensors to collect data and take action on the basis of that data across a network.
Internet of Things makes everyday objects:
• Controllable via the Internet e.g. via RFID, wireless LAN, wide-area network, etc.
Why is IoT Important?
The Internet of Things is the technology set to transform our lives by helping us to become more efficient and sustainable and enjoy seamless experiences which bridge the gap between our natural affinities and technological inclinations. There are many applications that IoT technology can be applied to for example, using sensors to automatically adjust lighting or heating. To stretch the imagination even further, think of production equipment that has the smart capability to alert maintenance staff when there is an impending failure.
A ‘thing’ in IoT can either be a human being, with a vitals monitor implant or a vehicle with built-in sensors to alert the driver when the air pressure in the tires is low. IoT can also be any other natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and enabled to transfer data over a network. IoT therefore, is essentially a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people assigned unique identifiers and given the ability to transfer data over a network without the need for person-to-person or machine-to-human interaction. The Internet of Things is a complex network of connected things and persons – all of which and whom collect and share data on use cases and the environment around them.
IoT Challenges and Barriers to Entry
The Internet of Things still faces several barriers to adoption such as the robustness of smart devices, their purchase prices and maintenance costs, etc. Taking time to find the right ideas and business model, how to go to market and how to secure the best ROI for IoT applications are critical to solving most challenges facing businesses going forward. Some of the challenges are due to:
• Data volumes
• Scalability issues
• Security and privacy concerns
• Reliability of wireless communications, etc.
What makes the Internet of Things unique?
IoT enables objects to gather and exchange data as the network of physical objects including devices, vehicles, buildings and other items are embedded with sensors, electronics, software, and network connectivity. As a dynamic global network infrastructure with self configuring capabilities IoT:
• Gives physical and intangible ‘things’ identities, virtual personalities and physical attributes;
• Integrates information from various devices and applies analytics to share the most valuable data with applications built to address specific needs;
• Makes smart interfaces that are seamlessly integrated into the information network;
• Has evolved from the convergence of wireless technologies, micro-electromechanical systems, microservices and the internet;
• Helps bring together elements from operational technology, combining them with information technology which enables unstructured machine-generated data to be analysed for insights that will contribute to the improvements.
What IoT means for your business
IoT is expected to impact most businesses. For instance, IoT and mobile technologies will transform the kinds of devices connected to your business systems. IoT can help your business boost operational efficiency, improve operational effectiveness, and utilise intelligence from wide ranging equipment to strengthen customer service delivery. Business will mostly likely be impacted more prominently in the areas of communications, control and automation.
Examples of the impact IoT will have on various business sectors:
• Smart transport – IoT will introduce solutions that will improve speed up traffic flows, reduce fuel consumption, organize service schedules and ultimately save lives.
• Smart energy - IoT will enable the better running of electric grids and improve system reliability while charging customers based on smaller usage increments.
• Smart cities – IoT can improve the running of municipalities and gives public service providers greater flexibility to effectively run waste management, law enforcement or other public interest programs more successfully.
• Smart Healthcare – IoT will enable wearable devices to detect health problems and provide early diagnosis.
Other problems that can be solved with IoT include the introduction of Smart applications in waste management, street lighting, parking, and metering, etc. A significant number of entities will adopt IoT in hopes to make huge savings. With new and reliable sensor information for instance, industrial companies can reduce equipment failures and consequently increase their bottom lines. In the transportation business, companies can deliver real-time tracking which provides elaborate supply chain data and promotes more transparent supply chain management.
Furthermore, in a more connected world, companies will be able to automate processes more effectively and control machines and infrastructure with greater ease. IoT marks significant progress in the next evolution of the internet and it is has the potential to change the world for the better. IoT is forecasted to grow into a vital factor that will impact foundational business operations in the very near future.
Future Technological Developments for IoT
• Big data
• Cloud Computing
• Network technology
• Hardware devices
With all the development taking place in the IoT space, businesses are beginning to embrace a new era of the digital enterprise, which requires them to become innovative companies that find original ways of delivering their products and services to their customers. With this in mind, it is easy to foresee a future where software and automated service layers will be introduced to products and services which will in turn shift value proposition from core product or service based to economies of experience through the customer journey pre, during and post purchase of the product or service. The true value of the Internet of Things therefore comes from the data collected from devices which will enable consumers, companies, and even communities to run more efficiently.