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Driving growth with IoT

Leading industry visionaries are forecasting major disruptions to how we work as a consequence of the Internet of Things (IoT). Consider that, currently, there are around 4.1 billion IoT devices ‘in play’ across the globe, with experts forecasting this will explode to approximately 26 to 50 billion M2M and IoT devices by 2020 across the business and consumer landscape.

So, as businesses re-engineer themselves and develop suitable IoT strategies, they will need to evaluate the possibilities for these applications within their respective sectors.

Naturally this development will have a wider affect on ‘people, process, and technology’, making it essential for CIOs and CEOs to ensure that any IoT strategy is well thought through and adaptable. It also needs to have the appropriate technology in place to marry front and back-end infrastructures efficiently.

Although IoT has been received with enthusiasm and positive predictions about the short and long-term benefits it will have, the burning question is, what does this actually mean for businesses? How can they capitalise on the IoT?

As business leaders strive to succeed with IoT, what are the key factors that they need to consider? In addition, what role do mobile applications play in these scenarios, and how should businesses develop their enterprise mobility strategies to harness the benefits thereof?

M2M vs Human-and-Machine

Typically, people are skilled at using desktops and mobile devices to talk with websites, play with applications, and communicate. IoT, on the other hand, focuses more on machine-to-machine (M2M) communication instead of human-and-machine interaction.

However, despite these distinct differences, there is a slight nuance in that ‘mobile’ and ‘wearable devices’ form an integral part of this ecosystem – ultimately IoT will be controlled by people.

Home, sweet home

At home, M2M is concerned with learning how we live so that it can utilise this intelligence to do things such as control our thermostat or create lighting schedules based on our behaviours and other factors, like location.

It will also become useful for simple tasks, like watering the lawn via the management of personal irrigation systems. This could, for example, be enabled by acquiring external weather data and cross-checking watering rules to determine if the lawn needs watering. In this scenario, IoT combines analytics, external services, and contextual information to allow machines to make decisions for us, but managed by us.

The IoT Revolution

IoT is going to redesign multiple sectors and aspects of our lives, much like the Industrial Revolution did. It's going to change how we work, what we do, and it's going to drive efficiencies for both the business and the consumer. This means that companies will need to think about how they account for IoT and roll out new IT campaigns. Consumers will be inspired to think differently too.

IoT is familiar territory for manufacturing

Although many sectors are on their first voyage of discovery with IoT, many large manufacturers have actually been 'doing' IoT since the Nineties through M2M interactions. For these companies, IoT is nothing new.

However, what is important is that is it is now an affordable option for small and mid-tier manufacturers, allowing smaller companies to streamline their manufacturing processes too. In the new industrial IoT model, mobile workers are going to be able to interface with the automation taking place around them using mobile devices too.

In addition to this, sensor automation analytics will affect how inventory's moved and managed, how items are produced and how the plant manages itself, whether it's direct control at the plant level or remotely.

Applications in field service

The future of field service is set to change too. IoT will, for example, enable organisations to intelligently direct engineers to problem areas on the factory floor according to skills and proximity, without relying on a person to do this. If something breaks down or if there's a specialised part needed, sensors will speed up the replacement process.

Utility sector IoT

For utility companies, bi-directional communication between consumers and producers will alter power consumption. Take washing the laundry as an example: sensors, IoT, and mobile applications could automate this chore to take place during off peak times.

Whereas, for energy companies, IoT enables the reliable management of a distributed grid that uses wind, solar, nuclear, and other forms of power with varying levels of consistency, while consumers fluctuate their demands for power.

Retail and advertising will embrace IoT

IoT will become increasingly visible in retail. Recently, Panasonic launched intelligent retail shelving using low Bluetooth emissions or iBeacons to offer customers incentives to buy products, change pricing on-the-fly, and send inventory reminders when shelf stock is low. Automatic reorder of items in your home is being tested in various forms, such as Amazon Echo and smart shelf sensing for refrigerators.

Targeted advertising will grow in importance, with retailers using data to drive customers to products, suggest alternatives, and offer personalised price deals. However, although experts believe IoT will thrive in retail, there are privacy concerns which need to be explored.

Mobile, IoT, and privacy

IoT has an ambiguous network of small devices and entire networks, making it important to consider secure management of the sheer amount of data coming from these sensors and devices.

IoT has a significant role to play in shaping how we live, conduct ourselves, and communicate. This also means that people will require a new, meaningful view of their end-users and networks so that they can interact properly with, and manage, these entities.

Naturally, all of this will equate to a requirement to manage these devices, new protocols, data, privacy concerns, and up-skilling staff to design networks and applications that enable consumers and businesses to take advantage of IoT.

Matt Trevathan, Director of Platform Product Management and Lab Innovation, Kony Inc.