The Internet of Things Is Coming: Are You Ready?


By now, most business people have probably heard of the Internet of Things , but knowing about it doesn’t mean you’d be able to integrate your company practices with this rapidly evolving way of doing business. Predictions for the future of business all point to the Internet of Things taking a larger role in shaping the business models of tomorrow; now is the time to take the steps to prepare for the trends to come.

What Is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things is the connection of different devices, such as kitchen appliances, cars, home security systems and medical monitoring equipment, to the internet. Computers, gaming consoles and smartphones, or any other devices that are typically found connected to the internet, fall under the purview of the Internet of Things.

So, in effect, the Internet of Things is all the “things” we connect to the internet that haven’t been traditionally linked to cyberspace. This creates a network of objects connected via the internet that can accumulate and share data using embedded sensors. The list of “things” connected via the Internet of Things is growing and will continue to do so in the coming years as more devices become accessible to cyberspace.

Effect on Business

Business Insider predicts the number of IoT devices connected to cyberspace to register around 24 billion by 2020. That translates to approximately four IoT-capable devices for every person. That’s a lot of things.

With that many devices out there, you can rest assured that IoT-centered development, such as applications, hardware for the plethora of devices, system integration software and hardware, data storage and security, and connectivity routes, will see a massive influx of funding. Business Insider‘s prediction is that a whopping $13 trillion will result from investments in the industries that feed into the Internet of Things.

Something this big is bound to have an effect on a multitude of businesses, from service providers to manufacturing. What that will look like is a subject of much speculation. Here are some of the possibilities, according to Forbes.

Here Come the Smart Products

If you have a Fitbit, for example, you’ve already got an IoT device strapped to your wrist. If you can tell your voice-activated home control system to turn the lights to 75 percent illumination, you’re already living in a home with an IoT. So, it isn’t such a stretch to imagine smart frying pans, internet-enabled golf clubs or a smart yoga mat that monitors your vital signs and number of calories burned, among other things. These products, among others, are not far from becoming the norm. The amount of data they are able to send back to the companies that sell them will greatly affect product development for the future.

“Sir, sensors indicate…”

We’re all familiar with some similar phrase uttered aboard starships whizzing around the galaxy in our beloved sci-fi movies and TV shows. The IoT depends on sensors as its backbone. These sensors, some so tiny you can barely see them, will attach to or be embedded in everything from suspension bridges to cups of hot chocolate sold from a vending machine. Information recorded from these sensors will then be sent back to the cloud.

This flow of data gives businesses specific feedback on the performance of their products among customers and provides information on how customers are using their products. It can detail product performance and malfunction occurrences and even suggest improvements customers may want in the future.

Altered Business Models

The IoT is most likely going to change the model for some businesses. Companies that made their name by selling farming equipment, for example, will find themselves including sensors, data collection and information synthesis into their product lines. The business model will include selling information as much as selling physical equipment.

Businesses will be sharing more and more information among their strategic partners. For example, personal fitness trackers already track data about fitness habits and vital stats indicative of our health status. Other organizations are waiting in the wings, salivating at the idea of getting their hands on that data for their marketing and development groups.

Looking Ahead

If you’re a small business, now is the time to sit up and take notice. Big business is getting ready for the Internet of Things, and it’s doing it in a big way. International companies, major healthcare providers and giants in manufacturing are already making large strides in that direction. From remotely adjusting equipment settings to dispatching technicians to repair or replace failing components before there’s even a noticeable problem, the IoT is making a multitude of changes to the ways we conduct business.

One area of concern in a world that interconnects in the cybersphere is security. Collecting more data presents a more tempting target for those who like to disrupt data collection and steal information. This, in turn, creates increased possibilities and opportunity for those engaged in the business of cybersecurity.

Notice the circular nature of this relationship? That’s the nature of the IoT in the world toward which business and society are moving. Advancement in one sector leads to opportunity in another sector that, in turn, generates innovation in another sector. On and on it goes, and where it stops, or if it stops, nobody knows.

The IoT is coming, and it isn’t going to wait for anyone.