Rise of the machines: what the Internet of Things means for your business

Anyone who grew up with James Cameron’s Terminator franchise can’t help but feel awed – perhaps even a little uneasy – about the Internet of Things. But you better get used to it. The machines are here to stay.

I read a pretty interesting report recently highlighting three key facts about our headlong rush into the Internet of Things. First, that the market for IoT will grow 347% in the next four years. Second, that its growth will eclipse the human-use internet before the end of the decade. And third, that the true winners of IoT may not be your typical tech companies.

Whoa there, I can hear many of you saying; we’ve barely got to grips with the regular internet yet, and you’re telling me there’s already another game changer knocking down our doors?

You better believe it (especially given that, once the Zuck-Dawg gets involved, you know something’s going to be huge). Indeed, with technology marketing phasers currently set to ‘hype’ and a raft of eye-catching applications already in development – we’re all pretty excited about robot butlers, right? – there’s no turning back now.

So what does the Internet of Things really mean for your business?

Rise of the machines

Let’s take a closer look at those figures. First up: growth. Gartner reckons the number of connected devices will rise to 26 billion by 2020, with the market reaching a sizeable $300bn – primarily driven by an explosion in smart devices and wearable tech.

Restrooms, kitchens, televisions, mobile devices, cars, gasoline pumps, packages, refrigerators, vending machines, SCADA systems: all will soon be vital communication tools in helping to make our lives easier/healthier/more productive. Even wigs are getting smarter.

And of course, where there are devices there is data. Which leads us on nicely to point two: the pace (and scale) of change. If organisations are struggling to cope with the rising tide of data volumes at the moment, they’re going to be swamped once the Internet of Things gathers real momentum.

Why? Because the Internet of Things is not just about gathering data; it’s also about the analysis and use of that data. And how firms approach this will be key to their success.

Billions of endpoints, zettabytes of information: lots of opportunity, loads of challenge. Is your business ready for the security issues presented by a truly connected environment? What about the storage management and data processing functions? And if you thought data was big now, well…

Solving those challenges so that essential business apps and workflows don’t fall over will be key to IoT success. “The enormous number of devices, coupled with the sheer volume, velocity and structure of Internet of Things data creates challenges, particularly in the areas of security, data, storage management, servers and the data centre network, as real-time business processes are at stake,” says Gartner VP and distinguished analyst Joe Skorupa.

From laggards to leaders

So who’ll be the big winners from IoT? Basically, anyone who requires better controls, better tracking, better reporting. Organisational self-awareness will be huge in 2014 (just don’t mention Skynet).

Indeed, manufacturing firms – so often portrayed as technology laggards – could be at the forefront of this new movement. Internet-enabled assembly lines, connected factories and smarter warehouses and supply chains – not to mention products – will revolutionise industrial settings everywhere.

“As the industrial space continues to become a more pervasive element of the Internet of Things, the operational rewards of securely making the right information available at the right time throughout the enterprise are even greater,” said Rockwell Automation CEO Keith Nosbusch at the recent Internet of Things World Forum in Barcelona. “That seamless integration of the enterprise, supply chain and plant is becoming the next wave of competitive differentiation.”

We’ll be attending the Next Generation Manufacturing Summit in California’s Newport Beach to find out how those firms at the cutting edge of the Internet of Things revolution – manufacturers and those involved in the extended supply chain – are addressing the opportunity, so watch out for future programmes exploring this space.

(article by B.Thompson)


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