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February 2, 2016
By Vanessa Ulrich
The Internet of Things nears a tipping point
Continuing our series of blog posts around the six megatrends identified by the World Economic Forum (WEF), this month we explore the Internet of Things, or IoT. With the cost of sensor hardware falling dramatically (in line with Moore’s Law), and the ubiquity and power of computing increasing, it is becoming possible to connect anything and everything to the Internet. In the WEF’s Technological Tipping Points report, 89 percent of respondents expect 1 trillion sensors to be connected to the Internet by 2022.
Initial IoT projects were based on industrial needs—sensor upgrades that told employees when a gas turbine needed servicing, or turned up the thermostat when warehouse temperatures dropped too low. The “industrial Internet” was an easy first step for IoT, but the technology has tremendous potential beyond simple machine-to-machine communications. IoT will enable the collection and aggregation of data that will drive digital transformation deeper within organizations—enabling better insight into customer experiences and sparking innovation. However, only 22 percent of IT and business leaders say IoT is already delivering on those promises.
What’s holding IoT back?
From a consumer’s perspective, 2015 seemed to be the year of talking about IoT. From smart thermostats, to smart refrigerators, to smart cars—suddenly, IoT is here, there and everywhere. But there are still some kinks to work out. Interoperability, for one. Google, Microsoft and Samsung, for example, each have their own versions of solutions for your smart home—meaning that for a seamless experience, consumers will end up within one closed ecosystem because their Nest won’t talk to their Alexa, and vice versa. There currently is no industrywide set of standards, though that’s something a regulatory body may soon take on.
A major hurdle is security. Not only can devices themselves be hacked through the networked sensors (Barbie botnet army, anyone?), but at the enterprise level, the number of people accessing and manipulating data will also increase. This will require a people-centered approach to IoT security, including thorough training and usage protocols to protect consumer privacy. The sheer amount of data IoT networks are collecting is mind-boggling. Networking bandwidth and reliability is going to be critical, not only for continuous data collection, but also the reverse—pushing out a software update to millions of connected devices, for example.
“Bigger, more interesting, and more transformative”
Though the future of IoT—the products and services that haven’t been dreamed up yet—is still hazy, the technology itself is charging ahead. Paul Miller at Forrester summed it up nicely: “Much of the early value of IoT lay in instrumenting existing processes. Tracking, measuring, and controlling machines delivers clear value, and it's easy to understand why this is an early focus. But the longer-term opportunity is bigger, more interesting, and more transformative. It sees businesses build tighter, more personalized, more sustained, more valuable relationships with their customers. IoT, and the intelligent analysis of the data generated by connected devices, will be key in building and strengthening those relationships, and that is where the real opportunity lies.”
As part of TEKsystems’ public relations team, Vanessa Ulrich reads everything she can about the technology industry and emerging trends. Vanessa blogs about where technology and society collide, giving context and commentary to top news stories. You can reach her with questions and comments @TEK_PR via Twitter.