The Internet of Things is on its way to becoming the Internet of Everything. Smart thermostats, wearables and smart cars are all IoT features that are here to stay, and there are many more to come. According to Business Insider, by 2020, there will be 34 billion connected devices in use. And that’s a conservative estimate.
The other thing about the IoT is that the ‘I’ part of it is vital. Those 34 billion devices are useless without the Internet to provide connectivity.
What does this connectivity mean for business? Let’s start with a definition. The IoT is a term used to describe a system in which physical objects (things) are connected to each other, and to humans, via the Internet. The main components of the IoT are:
Sensors collect data of all sorts. Sensors monitor things like temperature, structural building health, the presence of contaminants, and so much more.
Processors turn data into intelligence or instructions. Some processors are small chips embedded into devices, some are tablets, PCs or smart phones and others are cloud software services.
Actuator is just a fancy term for a device, or part of a device, that actually does something. In the case of a smart thermostat, the actuator is the mechanism that adjusts the heat based on the intelligence collected by the sensor.
Networks are the infrastructure that makes the IoT a reality. Some IoT systems work on a closed local network, while others require constant feedback from the cloud.
How do these parts work together for your business? You can use IoT for your business in three different ways:
- Sell smart devices to your customers.
- Reduce operating costs. This includes regulating temperature and air quality, tracking your supply chain or monitoring your facilities.
- Use business intelligence to make data-driven decisions and improve customer experience.
These are all great concepts, but let’s also consider real world examples of the IoT at work:
The IoT in Agriculture
The Internet of cows is a system; cows are equipped with pedometers. The data from pedometers is sent to the cloud where software identifies whether the cow’s movements mean she is prime for reproduction.
The IoT in Finance
Samsung has developed iris-scanning technology and is trying to develop it for use as a banking security feature.
The IoT in Hospitality
Virgin’s personal service app called Lucy allows guests to regulate room temperature, order room service and share recommendations with other guests. Japan has opened up the world’s first robot hotel, which is about as IoT as you can get.
The IoT in the Energy Sector
In the energy sector, many companies are using sensors and drones to monitor and inspect their hard-to-reach operations.
The IoT in Retail
Some retailers are using beacons to send messages to customers. A beacon is a transmitter that can be set up anywhere. A beacon searches for signals, usually a Bluetooth signal. When it picks up a signal, it sends a message back to the device, which results in a message to the smart phone. Often beacons are used to offer customers discounts or coupons.
These examples represent a fraction of what is going on in the development of the IoT. As more businesses adopt IoT systems, customers are going to expect greater efficiency and more smart features. Fortunately, sensor and processor technology are becoming increasingly affordable. The sky truly is the limit. Anything you can imagine is possible, if not today, then soon.
With affordable reliable fibre optic networks capable of 10 Gigabit speeds available to your business, you can dream big, because the ‘I’ in the IoT will be able to support all of your connectivity needs.