What is the Internet of Things?
In today's fast-paced, 140-character world of communication, there are many fancy buzzwords across the landscape. There's BLE, Carrier Aggregation, Immersive Design, and many more. But one we've been hearing more and more is "Internet of Things." But what exactly is the Internet of Things, or IoT, for short?
Simply put, the Internet of Things is a network of physical objects and devices that are connected to the Internet. This can range from everyday electronic devices, to appliances, medical devices, cars and much more. By connecting these devices to the internet, they can be controlled remotely and can collect vital data to improve our lives and well-being.
According to Gartner Tech Research, the firm estimates that by next year some 6.4 billion "things" will be connected to the internet and that by 2020, that figure will rise to 25 billion. We're seeing this more and more in our daily lives, whether it be "wearables" that monitor the number of steps we take, or the lighting system in our homes that we can control via our smartphones. This, of course, will require more data centers and additional capacity for cloud storage as companies mine all this data to better target clients and analyze behavior.
Birth of the Internet of Things
One has to go back to the last century, 1999 to be exact, to find the origin of the term, “Internet of Things.” Kevin Ashton, a British technology pioneery first coined the phrase to describe the network connecting physcial objects to the Internet. Of course at the time, it was more theoretical than practical. According to an interview in Smithsonian magazine, Ashton said, "In the twentieth century, computers were brains without senses—they only knew what we told them. That was a huge limitation: there is many billion times more information in the world than people could possibly type in through a keyboard or scan with a barcode."
IoT-a-be in (Big) Business
While we now take much of it for granted, we can recall some of the initial IoT devices that began the revolution, such as GPS devices for our cars. Today, every smartphone owner has access to GPS and it's difficult to imagine being without it.
But what about in the business world?
When we look at the impact of the Internet of Things, we tend to focus on the consumer side--home automation, personal planning. But while the sheer number of connected products will be vastly greater on the consumer side, for business it's specificity and quality over quantity.
For small and medium-size businesses, IoT is destined to lead to:
- Greater efficiency
- More targeted (and actionable) data collection
- Greater innovation
- Faster development time for new and enhanced products
- Greater workforce mobility
- Better customer service and support
Even the founders of Meraki (whose cutting-edge cloud-controlled infrastructure LunaTech utilizes in building its managed client networks) recently set their sites on their new IoT start-up, Samsara with the intention of simplifying of IoT's inherent power on a large scale .
All this may sound like a lot of "hype" that often attaches itself to tech-oriented buzzwords but some analysts thing IoT is poised to far surpass the hype, as the McKinsey Global Institute projects. Their June 2015 report claims that twice as much value will come from Business-to-Business (B2B) application than from Business-to-Consumer (B2C).
Challenges Lie Ahead
All is not smooth sailing, however. As we become a more connected society, two main issues arise: security and privacy.
With the increase of the Internet of Things, it brings a greater increase of data collected and stored. This means that there is a higher risk of that data getting hacked and important information vital to a business' success falling into unscrupulous hands. Cybersecurity will have to continue to evolve and expand to stay one step ahead of cyber terrorists and other "bad actors."
In fact, this is an area LunaTech's partner, Cisco (who purchased Meraki in 2012), is focusing on quite extensively, expanding IoT into the notion of an "Internet of Everything" (IoE) as they too recognize it to be the "biggest business opportunity in the history of mankind."
With privacy already a major concern to most people, the amount of big data (aggregated or not) that is collected by businesses on private citizens will only continue to grow. This puts more and more of our personal information out there for all to see. Yet no matter which side of the business (or government) tracking of our data issue one falls, what is done with that data beyond the protection of citizens is a concern to all. This includes data about personal health, credit, and other aspects of our lives. Gaining and maintaining trust is vital to successful business application.
Like any new global business-shifting technology, its nascency brings with it questions and concerns that need to be understood, answered, and refined. But what's indisputable is that the Internet of Things is here to stay and will continue to expand for years to come. Sooner or later, the benefits will outweigh the risks as the demand increases for a world that has become smaller as it has become more connected.
Contact Us for a free consultation to make sure your business is prepared for the exciting changes to come.