The Internet of Things (IoT) is set to become the next big thing. In fact, Business Insider makes the bold prediction that “the Internet of Things will be the largest device market in the world.” The mag estimates that “by 2019 it will be more than double the size of the smartphone, PC, tablet, connected car and the wearable market combined.”
But what exactly is the IoT?
It’s best defined as the connected system of objects and computers through the use of sensors. Sensors transform everyday inanimate objects into devices that can be used to collect data and send information, effectively making the transition from inanimate object to smart device. Data is sent from these sensors to your computer or smartphone for a variety of purposes.
IoT: Making all things smart
Currently, connectivity and intelligence are focused mainly on the devices that were intended to be “smart” — your computer, your phone, your tablet. What the Internet of Things aims to do is make all things smart.
If you think this all sounds ultra-futuristic, you may be surprised to learn that you might already be a part of the Internet of Things. Consider your Fitbit or Jawbone device. These wearables track your physical activity and gather data and send it to your phone or computer.
The Internet of Things wants to take this idea further. What if your running shoes could be fitted with sensors that speak to an app on your phone, telling you how many miles you ran? What if your workout clothes could measure your output of sweat and alert you when you need more electrolytes?
To really understand IoT, we need to think beyond the physical aspects of devices and sensors and instead focus on the connectivity — and ultimately, the new and efficient ecosystem it’s creating.
Consider our solutions for data collection now. It’s not so much an ecosystem as disparate sections of devices, data and analytics. If you want to collect information on which features of your app are the most popular, you take a survey, or analyze a Lucky Orange session at best. If you want to know why your product is malfunctioning, you scour the code or disassemble the physical device.
Collecting information about your app features becomes as simple as reading the data provided by sensors. The sensors will tell you which features are contributing to the success of your product, and which features can be scrapped to make it leaner.
Thinking bigger with the Internet of Things
An example that many IoT advocates use is the bridge example. A bridge in Minnesota collapsed because the stress on the bridge was too great. If the bridge was connected to the Internet of Things, sensors would speak to computers, telling them that the bridge was compromised. A smart bridge would save lives. If you were the contractor for the bridge, it would save your business.
Many futurists ask the small business owner to think bigger when considering the possibilities of IoT. Business Insider agrees, with the prediction that “the main benefit of growth in the IoT will be increased efficiency and lower costs. The IoT promises increased efficiency within the home, city and workplace by giving control to the user.”
Imagining IoT solutions
It might be hard to imagine now, much like trying to imagine the uses of the Internet when it was still in its ARPANET phase. However, advocates have offered up no shortage of solutions.
For the tech-savvy retailer — consider the possibilities of IoT for inventory tracking. When an item is purchased and carried out of the store, sensors in the item alert the warehouse and make a report detailing the need for more stock. But why stop there? With data constantly walking through the door, retailers can easily be enlightened on which items sell the most, what times their demographic shops, etc., allowing them to make more informed decisions.
Let’s take it a step even further. Marketers would surely want access to this treasure trove of data. Retailers who make use of the Internet of Things can develop a side stream of income selling the information that their sensors gather.
With the Internet of Things catching on, it’s not hard to imagine an explosion of new connected products as well. Think of the benefits to the health community, for example. With IoT the possibility of developing life-saving products increases tenfold. What about a heart monitor that alerts an ambulance when someone goes into cardiac arrest? Or an insulin syringe that senses the need for another dose and administers it automatically?
Imagining the possibilities of the Internet of Things is imagining a future in which sensors and devices do all the work, and people reap the benefits of a wealth of data unimaginable today. For business owners, the Internet of Things is a gateway to higher efficiency, lower costs and invaluable market insights. If IoT is as big as predicted, we should be seeing some major changes in the fundamental way we do business in the coming years.
How do you envision the Internet of Things transforming business? Please share in the comments!