If you're in tech, the 'Internet of Things' is hard to ignore. But for the rest of the world, the 'IoT' may still be something of an unknown. If you've heard the term but don't know what it means, you're not alone. Lots of people are beginning to ask what's the 'Internet of Things'?
Business owners, it's a question you should definitely be asking by now. Sooner or later, the Internet of Things will make its way into your business operations one way or another.
Here's a simple primer to get you up to speed.
A Quick Explanation of the IoT
In case you hadn't noticed, there are a lot more connected devices on the market than there were just five years ago. Broadband internet is cheaper and faster and almost everyone has access. Wi-Fi is growing and spreading. Sensors are smaller and cheaper.
The result of all these tech developments is an explosion in connected devices. It's not just your smartphone that's connected. It's your fitness watch. It's your TV, your coffee maker, your thermostat.
Anything with a sensor and Wi-Fi capabilities is now part of the connected world. The IoT includes cars whose smart navigation and entertainment systems keep you connected. It also includes washing machines, home security systems, and surveillance cameras.
Gartner expects that, by 2020, there will be 26 billion connected units in the world. And right now, businesses are the top adopters. You may not have an IoT initiative your business now, but chances are you will in the next year or two.
IoT Technology Helps Grow Businesses
Utility companies, smart cities, and manufacturing have led the way in using connected devices to increase productivity.
- Manufacturing. As factories become connected, managers have a better grasp on productivity
- Cities. As streetlights, buses, and stoplights become connected, city planners can make traffic flow more smoothly and reduce their carbon footprint.
- Utilities. As utility infrastructures become connected, energy is distributed more efficiently.
Now, small and medium-sized businesses are beginning to benefit, too.
- Retail. Retailers employ sensors on products, give their salespeople mobile devices, and digitize their supply chains... all to improve operations and the customer experience.
- Hospitality. Hotels offer better guests services and improved Wi-Fi access through smart TVs and/or mobile applications.
For Safe IoT Deployment, Stay Security-Minded
The potential of connected devices to change business and increase productivity is momentous. But with all the excitement of those possibilities, don't forget about IoT security.
The explosion of connected devices brings with it a parallel explosion of security issues. Some are technical but others are people-oriented. Who's using all those devices? Employees. That means your IT department has to be in close communication with managers. Plus, leadership has to be involved to ensure everyone is working together on the same page.
Reconsider How IT is Done
For most businesses, the IT department is not what it used to be... if it exists at all anymore. Nowadays, partly because of the IoT, IT pros have a whole new set of responsibilities on their hands. They're doing a whole lot more than babysitting antivirus programs and setting up firewalls!
The IoT is partly responsible for a quiet revolution in the IT world. It's not rare for IT professionals to be full-fledged members of the C-suite, taking on important executive roles within the companies they work for. Because of the IoT, technology is everywhere, and so are the people who manage technology.
You've now got a solid mental framework for discussing the Internet of Things. It should be easier for you to understand the opportunities (as well a the challenges) ahead of you as the IoT grows. What you can do now is to keep learning so you can stay informed about the impact on you and your business.