It’s the latest buzz phrase, the Internet of Things. But it’s more than just a catchphrase; it signifies a new way of life for everyone.
With the growth of the Internet, we constantly talk about living in a connected world…connected to our jobs, to our families, to each other. But now instead of just people connecting with one another through the internet, now things are connecting with one another, with and without human intervention. Welcome to the world of the IoT (Internet of Things). McKinsey & Company notes, “the predictable pathways of information are changing: the physical world is itself becoming a type of information system.” The IoT is essentially a network of physical things (devices, vehicles, homes, roads, etc.) embedded with sensors, network connectivity, and software that enable each of the entities to collect and exchange data.
Whether you’re a consumer or a business, you’re interacting with the IoT. As a consumer, I personally have connected thermostats and cameras and a power receptacle at home. In business, it depends on the function being performed. For procurement, as an example, smart supply closets exist that will electronically “talk” to the procurement system when a particular item in the closet gets low. The system will then initiate an automatic order to purchase and restock inventory.
Governments are also taking part in the IoT to promote efforts to improve the sustainability and “livability” of the city. In Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, the IoT is being used to help ease parking conditions by letting drivers know where available spaces exist at any given time as sensors in the streets that detect vehicles identify those open spaces. In the same vein, through vehicle to infrastructure communication, trucks and cars constantly send out electronic beacons about where they are and sensors on the side of the road receive those beacons to measure traffic and ultimately alert navigation systems to route drivers down different roads. This ultimately affects businesses, consumers, and the cities that serve both.
So where is this going? Earlier this year, a New York Times article cites research firm Gartner which projected that sensors on objects alone will be a $2.6 trillion business by 2019. Business Insider issued a report that projected the following:
- There will be 34 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020 and IoT devices will account for 24 billion of those.
- In the next five years, nearly $6 trillion will be spent on IoT solutions.
- Businesses will be the top adopter of IoT solutions as a way to lower operating costs, increase productivity and expand both product offerings and new markets.
- Governments will be the second largest IoT adopter in order to improve their citizens; quality of life
What is abundantly clear is that the way people and institutions, from governments to businesses, deal with the physical world is changing dramatically, and with the speed at which technology progresses, it would not be surprising to see the IoT grow exponentially.