The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of those galactic terms that seems almost too overwhelming to contemplate. It is estimated that within the next five years, there will be more than 25 billion devices, sensors and chips handling upwards of 50 trillion gigabytes of data. It’s like hearing for the first time that the global economy equals $300 trillion. It’s nice to know, but doesn’t help in getting started. Where does one even begin to capitalize on such a growing monstrosity as the IoT? Where can you begin to see value?
One analyst group of has actually attempted to narrow down IoT a bit to its most valuable core essence. They suggest that the value isn’t in “Things” at all — meaning any device with an IP address. Instead, the “Internet of Sensors” — one piece of the IoT — is where the real action is, according to a report from The Technology Partnership (TTP). TTP’s Steve Taylor suggest that “there’s simply no point in objects talking to each other just for the sake of it. The IoT only provides the communications backbone. An Internet of Sensors looks more like the roots of a tree, with sensors of all types at the extremities, capturing and feeding data upwards to the main trunk – the Internet.”
The real value lies in being able to capture and analyze the data that comes from the sensors at the endpoints of IoT — and that needs to be the few nuggets of data that are of material value to the business. But even if it’s narrowed down to an Internet of Sensors, such a network may not deliver what a business truly needs. As I heard a colleague put it thus way a few years back: you can have a warehouse with pallets loaded with product, and the technology exists to detect whether something falls of that pallet. But does that really matter to the business? At the same time, there is a huge amount of much more relevant data that goes unrecognized. The business needs to weigh in on what data really matters to their success going forward.
Ultimately the value of IoT may come from two directions — providing insights into things that weren’t previously visible to the business, and also elevating peoples’ roles within organizations. “IoT promises to handle tedious tasks so people can focus on more important things,” said Ron Exler, analyst with Saugatuck Technology, in a recent report. Exler predicts a great deal of confusion around IoT in the coming years — as mentioned above, consider its gargantuan scope. Every vendor, for one, is getting into the IoT act, despite an absence of standards. For the best value, he says, look to industry-specific ecosystems and platforms. The utility industry, which is building the capability to support smart energy grids, is one example. In healthcare, we are seeing wearable technology and other supportive devices coming on the scene. Manufacturers will be able to take advantage of developments in what GE has christened as the “Industrial Internet.”
Saugatuck expects IoT to have its greatest inital impact in the following areas:
- Smart cities
- Asset management
- Indoor marketing
- Augmented reality
- Social media
- Wearable devices
Much of what we will see and use in IoT will be possible because of cloud computing, Exter adds. “Cloud-based platforms will emerge and grow rapidly as IoT-based complexities drive buyers –and many providers – toward the most affordable, scalable, and available resources. Cloud providers are able to buy and/or build and, most of the time, manage, massive quantities of infrastructure.”
Ultimately, the vakue in IoT may come from the enlightenment organizations gain. As CapGemini’sput it in a recent post, there will be considerable amounts of intelligence put out in the network, giving rise to greater self organization. “With processing costs declined by nearly 60x over the last few years, Internet of Everything devices are becoming not just connected but brilliant in their ability to decide what to do on their own. New microprocessors are enabling low-cost devices to take actions either independently or with other things, in a self-organized-network flavor… making “things” self-aware, predictive, reactive, and collaborative.”