For years that almost intangible little phrase “The Internet of Things” has been bandied about in hit predictions of the future. It’s tipped to bring us driver-less cars, automated shopping, and homes that light up, cool off or shut down at the push of a smartphone button.
In reality the IoT is already here with Gartner noting 8.4 billion “things” will be connected by the end of this year. It’s transforming industries like retail, manufacturing, health and transport. It’s delivering us smart cities with automated transport and lighting, and providing information, experience and new convenience each and every day.
This is the Internet of Things, how it’s changing our lives, and where it’s headed in the next few years…
Just in case you missed it, the Internet of Things describes internet-enabled devices that talk to each other. From tablets to smartphones, digital networks and sensors, it encompasses a vast variety of devices and items that interconnect to make life more efficient in the modern world.
So much so, that technology networking giant Forbes claims the IoT industry will be worth $19 trillion for companies and industries worldwide by 2020, with 50 billion devices connected.
So who’s buying in and what are they up to?
The key factor of the Internet of Things is that it has the potential to affect almost every area of our life, from the way we use our homes, to how we shop, how our products are made and received, and how we experience our cities, business and healthcare.
Integrated marketing experts i-scoop note: “Manufacturing operations, freight monitoring, smart grid, smart home, telematics (insurance), remote health monitoring and digital signage and other IoT use cases in retail are among the IoT use cases where spending remains high or increases in the next years.”
Smart Home and an equally talented city
Domestic consumers are among the biggest drivers of the IoT. At present the Average Joe makes up the fourth largest market segment with 5.2 billion units of connected items in 2017, according to Gartner.
And the reason we’re employing IoT? To make our homes more efficient via items like Smart Televisions connected to the internet, programmable heating and cooling that we can dial into from our phone, and security systems that can monitor all our shiny new IoT products and more.
Meanwhile the cities we live in are becoming equally talented. CCTV systems are interlinked, street lights are programmable and information continues to be networked to better manage regional assets like hospitals, power plants, security systems and law enforcement.
Modern retail is all about the customer experience where shopping transcends traditional borders between the online and bricks and mortar realm. And already the IoT is making its presence felt.
Forbes states 70% of retail decision makers are ready to deploy IoT, while big names like Macy’s already have.
IoT in retail extends from RFID tags that track and monitor inventory to near field communication beacons that tap into a consumer’s mobile the moment they enter a store.
It also encompasses easy payment options like contactless payments and mobile Point of Sale.
In the near future it will stretch to artificial intelligence that monitors consumer trends and spending habits to provide better advice and service via technology like chatbots. It will allow buyers to virtually explore how a product will service them courtesy of virtual and augmented reality
For retail the IoT provides a bevy of mineable data that spans how many people walk through the door and when, to what they buy and what they are likely to depending on social trends, the weather and reviews.
Coupled with IoT transport like delivery drones, this new connected world is revolutionising and will continue to transform retail.
According to Industry Week, the manufacturing sector is also on the cusp of a revolution courtesy of IoT.
Sensors are already widely used in manufacturing along with tags to show where a product is in the chain, how effectively it’s working, and how well the plant and machinery creating it is operating.
“Technologies based on the Internet of Things have the potential to radically improve visibility in manufacturing to the point where each unit of production can be “seen” at each step in the production process. Batch-level visibility is being replaced by unit-level visibility. This is the dawn of smart manufacturing,” Industry Week states.
The potential for improved transport is almost limitless, from driverless cars to real-time public transport updates and information. This networking of transport will allow better traffic flow, improved asset management and state-of-the-art commuter information.
Already London is further experimenting with smart transport courtesy of the IoT, announcing last year the city would have its own IoT network. While it will be available to digital entrepreneurs, a major emphasis is seamless people movement, according to Tech Radar.
“The goal is smart transport, using sensors around the city to collect data on traffic congestion and pedestrian footfall – and even from bike-frame sensors – to help develop a ‘safer journey’ planner for cyclists in central London.
“Temperature, air quality and humidity will also be collected to work on environmental quality analysis to help asthma sufferers, while wind speed will be measured to help calculate the most efficient routes around the capital for… delivery drones.”
Another major driver of the IoT in coming years will be the health industry, with a world of potential at their surgically skilled fingertips.
Search Health IT explains the market for health applications of IoT is steadily growing.
“The internet of things has numerous applications in healthcare, from remote monitoring to smart sensors and medical device integration. It has the potential to not only keep patients safe and healthy, but to improve how physicians deliver care as well. Healthcare IoT can also boost patient engagement and satisfaction by allowing patients to spend more time interacting with their doctors.”
The final word
No longer a concept of the future, the IoT is right here, right now, connecting people, machines and services in new and revolutionary ways.
The challenge for all industries will be how best to effectively harness its power at a time when IoT is evolving as fast as it’s being rolled out.