Prodera Group Insights Blog

Does the Internet of Things (IoT) really matter?

Evolution. Its a common phrase used in technology today. The Internet of Things (IoT) industry is certainly an example of modern day technology evolution. But the question is, with people becoming increasingly more ‘connected’ – does the concept of IoT really matter in today’s world?

What is the Internet of Things?

It’s a slightly odd name… but that’s essentially what it is – lots of ‘things’ that are connected by a common medium – the Internet. The term ‘Internet of Things’ was devised by British technology pioneer, Kevin Ashton, who created the global standard for radio-frequency identification (RFID) and coined the term to describe systems of ubiquitous sensors connected to the physical world by the Internet.

While this concept isn’t something that is relatively new (we’ve had internet-connected devices for quite a long time now) the focus is now on the evolution of technology to address common challenges that the world endures today through practical means. IoT technology encompasses the use of physical devices embedded with software and equipped with sensors to collect and exchange data across a range of domains, applications and environments.

A practical and proven example of such devices is the rapidly growing use of ‘smart meters’ by utility and energy providers to monitor household gas, electric and water usage in real-time. By the end of 2016, there was over 27 million smart electricity meters installed in domestic properties in the United Kingdom. Smart devices (such as smart meters) are rapidly infiltrating the average home and are now playing an active part in people’s everyday life. From personal fitness trackers to connected security cameras and smart refrigerators, IoT-enabled devices are readily available today and have already become mainstream. There are even smart toasters on sale today!

On a broader scale, there are so many applications for IoT technology that we’ve only really just started to scratch the surface. IoT technology is already revolutionising industries including healthcare, transportation, manufacturing and energy. The effects of IoT-enabled technology is already being felt across people’s everyday lives and its only set to grow.

It is estimated that there will be over 26 billion connected devices worldwide by 2020… Gartner, Inc. (source)

One area that is coming to the forefront is the concept of a ‘smart city’, where Governments across the globe are looking to IoT technology to improve the daily lives of its residents through collections of advanced IoT systems. From intelligent traffic management systems to actively monitoring city-wide pollution levels, ‘urban informatics’ as its now known can provide real-time insight into the health and state of a city by using distributed networks of IoT devices to collect relevant data. One well-known example of a truly ‘smart city’ is the American city of Chicago where the Array of Things project actively monitors the city’s environment, infrastructure and activity to make Chicago a healthier, safer and more efficient city. It is expected that this will be common across all major cities worldwide within the next 5 years.

What does IoT mean for business?

IoT is quickly becoming a hot topic of discussion by businesses today and is fuelling huge gains in innovation in what is now a vastly connected world. But as with all emerging technology, the concept of IoT can be quite confusing and technically complex. That being said, the reality is that IoT opens the door to endless possibilities and presents a real opportunity to innovate and accelerate the use of advanced technology in today’s information-driven world. This is a notion that a lot of the world’s business leaders are standing up and listening to. The range of potential revenue streams, cost-saving benefits and productivity improvements that IoT technology offers businesses is helping to drive substantial industry growth.

Modern 21st century businesses all look to technology to make things possible. IoT is the next logical step in this evolution and many businesses are already recognising the potential that IoT technology brings to the table. Essentially, IoT enables a business to be able to gather and harness information from a wide array of sources using integrated solutions to drive efficiency through data and analytics. Due to the diverse and flexible nature of IoT, its possible to offer new products and services to customers quickly while addressing complex technical and commercial challenges. Information from and about its customers is by far one of the most valuable assets that businesses own today, and IoT is fast becoming an enabler for producing even more information and data to help businesses understand their operating environment better.

A number of big players in the technology arena have already started to invest heavily in developing a varied ranged of innovative IoT-enabled products and services in recent years. Some good examples of this include:

  • IBM has already changed its strategic direction to be at the forefront of the connected world through its Smarter Planet initiative launched in 2008.
  • Google’s acquisition of Nest Labs in 2014 demonstrated the first major play towards creating ‘smarter homes’ through a range of connected devices, from heating thermostats to smoke alarms.
  • The Bosch Group is already enhancing its Industrial Control System (ICS) products to incorporate IoT-enabled technology across manufacturing, retail, transportation and energy.
  • Cisco Systems acquires Jasper Technologies in 2016, a leading IoT platform provider, reinforcing its commitment to its IoT strategy dubbed the ‘Internet of Everything’.
  • Philips is revolutionising the healthcare industry through developing IoT-enabled devices aimed at improving the quality of clinical care with devices such as connected medication dispensers, glucose meters and personal emergency alarms.
  • Microsoft recently announced the launch of its IoT and AI Insider Lab to help accelerate developments in IoT and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology by providing access to expertise and support for organisations that are developing new IoT solutions.

For IoT technology to be effective, reliance on robust network connectivity usually over wireless mediums (such as cellular and mobile networks) is crucial to allow for devices to be monitored, managed and controlled remotely as well as communicating with other IoT devices. This maturity of mobile telecommunications is really the foundation of the IoT ecosystem. Coupled with the continued evolution of cloud computing solutions, such as AWS and Microsoft Azure, the platforms required to operate networks of connected IoT devices and analyse the vast amounts of data they produce is becoming increasingly more accessible and comprehensive. Without these two advancements in technology, the concept of IoT simply wouldn’t be possible.

However, emerging technology in a hyper-connected world does bring some immediate challenges – none more so than the implications of information security and data privacy. With effectively billions of devices potentially exchanging all types of data openly across vast inter-connected networks, the challenge of protecting that data becomes more critical and definitely shouldn’t be ignored. Unfortunately, IoT technology is rapidly becoming an attractive target for cybercriminals. As more and more connected devices materialise across a range of industries, their value multiplies as criminals look to hijack more critical resources. Its important that businesses take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their customers when adopting IoT-enabled technology.

So, does IoT really matter?

The short answer is… yes, IoT does really matter. Think of a world where every single electronic device is connected in some way or another. From your home to your car to your workplace. This type of technology is quickly encroaching on every part of our lives and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. The growth of the ‘smartphone’ is testament to the momentum of a truly connected world.

The worldwide IoT industry is estimated to be worth over $300 billion by 2020. That’s one of the largest growing industries ever seen. We believe that, as a result of developing IoT technology, the way business and public services work today will change dramatically in the next 5 years by making everything around us more intelligent and more information-driven. We really are at the forefront of the biggest digital transformation ever seen and IoT technology is leading the way by unlocking the power of data and driving efficiency in everything we do.

Prodera Group is already helping businesses realise the potential of connected technology and the Internet of Things (IoT). To find out how we can help your business take advantage of emerging technology, please contact us today by sending us a message or call +44 (0) 845 154 3560.

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