A few years ago if you’d mentioned the Internet of Things to the man on the street he may have looked at you slightly blankly. Now, the concept of an internet of ‘things’ (IoT) is beginning to seep into the mainstream, and for good reason. The IoT is spreading its tendrils into every aspect of our everyday lives and is coming to be associated in some way or another with almost every device or contraption we encounter in our everyday lives.
In case you hadn’t heard the term yet (and, mark my words, you will read it somewhere soon) the entire concept of the IoT is about enabling commonplace devices to gather information and communicate with each other, and with us, via the internet. From toothbrushes that record brushing habits to cars that automatically update their own software, the growing ability of devices to sense and interact with their environments through the IoT is a big deal for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Estimates on how big and how fast the network of interconnected devices will grow vary wildly but the one thing they do all have in common is that the growth will be exponential.
Between 2015 and 2020, according to a 2014 report by Gartner, IoT devices will increase from nearly 5 billion to 25 billion devices worldwide. Intel proposes that there are currently 15 billion devices with the potential to reach 200 billion by 2020. Of course defining exactly what a ‘thing’ in the internet of things actually is may be what is causing these estimates to vary so much.
Either way, with so many devices in place, it is safe to say that the ‘next’ revolution in technology is already taking place. The IoT is already transforming the way some businesses operate. Below are just a few of the ways that the Internet of Things is increasing efficiency and stimulating new venues of business growth.
Whether you have heard of them or not, beacons are already influencing the way companies interact with consumers. Beacons are small IoT devices that are activated by the presence of a customer’s smart device, such as a phone or watch. Once triggered, they then send the customer a customised message. The messages dispersed may be as modest as a welcome notification as the customer walks into the store, or as subtle as a coupon for a specific product. Shopkick, a Beacon technology, has already, reportedly, delivered a billion dollars in revenue for its retail cohorts since 2010.
For businesses, this entails a whole new level of creative customisation. Generic ad campaigns will become increasingly scarce as adverts are algorithmically personalised for the consumers.
As the IoT grows, workplace processes are going to be much more streamlined. Tracking sensors will be able to keep tabs of your items, whether that means tracking products through a supply chain, never losing your equipment, knowing exactly where your field staff are and how quickly they can be at a job site, or managing your inventory.
In addition to increasing efficiency and productivity, tracking technology vaunts a plethora of additional applications for businesses. The jet engine industry, for example, is using tracking sensors to preserve proprietorship of their engines while billing airlines for the amount of propulsion they use.
Businesses are no longer going to have to guess at who is using their product, how often it is being used, and what it is being used for. Their own merchandise will be delivering that data straight to their doorstep.
The IoT is all about data and it is already providing new, previously inaccessible, streams of information. Smart whiskey bottles can relay consumption behaviour back to the manufacturer. Sensors in smart beds will be recording consumer sleep patterns and habits. Smart thermostats such as Nest, in the homes will be indicating when families are home, what kind of ambient temperatures they prefer, and when they go to bed. By compiling this data, companies will have an advanced understanding of the consumer’s needs and desires and a distinct advantage over their competitors.
The Internet of Things is an unobtrusive revolution that is changing the face of technology. Any dumb product can now be made ‘smart,’ with the addition of sensors, and this is already beginning to transform the way companies do business.
About the Author: Patrick Lincoln is Director and founder of Bristol based Telecoms and Unified Communications Company Solution IP, which he set up in 2006. An authority in the industry, Patrick spent many of his formative years building relationships within the telecoms community in the South West of England. You can connect with him or any of the team at Solution IP on Twitter or Facebook
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