The Internet of Things (IoT) introduces difficult questions: How can someone manage all of his or her devices? A unified user interface? Are different companies and industries ready to standardize? What is the potential commercial value for IoT? How will we manage security and safety? Software compatibility?
Most industry forecasters agree that the Internet of Things will be huge. Gartner expects that the number of IoT devices will grow to 26 billion units by 2020, 30 times more than that of 2009. Others have bolder estimates, John Gantz of IDC puts that number at 15 billion in 2015, and Intel estimates 200 billion objects by 2020. Another company, On World, estimates that there will be more than 100 million Internet-connected light bulbs in 2020, a 50-fold increase from last year’s forecast.
These numbers clearly indicate a revolutionary increase of online-connected objects. If that doesn’t capture the attention of every CIO in the world, this should: Cisco estimates internet-connected devices will be a $14.4 trillion industry in 2022.
The Next Big Thing
We are in uncharted territory. Just as no one really understood the true impact of the first iPhone when Steve Jobs stood up at MacWorld in 2007 to introduce it, or of the Internet when the US Department of Defense first funded the development of network use of the Internet Protocol in the early 1960s, we still don’t know the true impact that IoT will have.
Nonetheless, IoT in everyday life isn’t a hypothetical scenario based on theory only – it is happening today. Cars, refrigerators, light bulbs, televisions and AC units all have penetrated the IoT world. This is just a tiny fraction of what is possible, but that is how a revolution starts. Think back to mobile phones or personal computers and how improbable they seemed early on.
The Commercial Value of IoT
Do you want your organization to shape the future of IoT, or do you want to wait and be left behind?
Assuming your organization is ready to shape the future and wants to invest in what is profitable for the next decade and not only the next quarter, IoT is the ticket. Here are some areas of technology that will be impacted or introduced by IoT:
- Manufacturers of hardware and electronics now have an entire new industry to build. The number of “things” that are yet to go online is impressive.
- Product companies will have to build software for online-connected objects and user dashboards to manage them.
- Consultant agencies will have to expand their portfolio to include these new internet-connected objects and also account for dependencies on them.
- Security specialists now have to tackle the newly-introduced, obvious security concerns, such as how do I prevent criminals from unlocking my front door remotely? Yet the not-so-obvious-ones are the scariest. For example, 30 years ago no one could’ve imagined that electronic identify theft would be a problem plaguing 2% of the population.
- Thought leaders must find ways to standardize the ways these “things” behave and how they are managed. Imagine if you needed to access a different interface for your light bulbs and for your toaster. If we can’t get Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox to agree on one standard, how can we get thousands of companies that build billions of products to agree on one?
- Safety organizations will need to weigh in because of all the dangers that billions of new internet-connected objects introduce. One of the more visible concerns here is health safety against driver-less cars or remotely controlled stoves.
- Vertical impact will probably be one of the last changes to really take effect, but it will be a significant effect. Imagine a healthcare industry where a refrigerator can monitor your calorie intake. Imagine the media impact when you can personalize content and reach consumers through hundreds of devices at home. Imagine AC devices and light bulbs that can be programmed to save tremendous amounts of energy. Imagine the retail industry where a kitchen cabinet can send a reminder when you run out of food.
All these possibilities and challenges are dependent on having the Internet connection for potentially 200 billion devices. Very few places in the world have adequate connection for the nearly 9 billion laptops or mobile phones today, let alone room for the estimated 200 billion devices in 2020. Getting those devices online will require a transformation that no one is prepared for yet – but the future of IoT will be completely directed by the infrastructure to connect these devices. Harness this challenge correctly, and technologists all over the world can shape this revolution to help billions of people, while creating one of the biggest industries of the 21st century.
The article was originally featured on IT Briefcase on January 7, 2015 and is re-posted here by permission.