Most of the news surrounding the looming IoT is consumer-centric. It makes for good copy to be speculating on the roll-out of the IoT in suburbia. However, the fact is the IoT is already here, busy being installed – piece by piece – into commercial apps and systems all over the world. The mere fact that most consumers are still holding their breath gives a clue as to how the IoT will truly manifest – business first.
For businesses that are still contemplating whether to replace their fax machine with a business email, “goodbye and thanks for playing.” For every other organization, optimized tech is going to take on new meaning over the next two years. IT support as a service will itself become redefined, as commerce and industry move into a more automated, technologically-sleek reality with the IoT. Technology assistance is going to center on the integration of the IoT into both commercial systems and operations, as well as into CX specifically.
Businesses and other organizations that value CRM will need to juggle systems that allow them to manage relationships (and the copious data that ensue from them). A host of now-automated functions will gather loads of the new cross-pollinated data that the IoT will produce. Marketing and finance are two departments that are already drooling at projections that stem from the roll-out of the IoT, and that is the way the IoT is going to manifest – commercial interests will stake a rapid claim to its advantages, and consumers will be brought up to speed later with the protocols and abilities.
Commercial applications will drive filtered-down consumer behavior, as use cases in business find either symbiosis or direct application in the retail market, too. Amazon’s Ring is classic IoT with an ICT touch, but very few other apps have become mainstream yet. Business will seek efficiencies through the IoT, and consumers will then find IoT applications that fit logically into their world, too.
The IoT is sensors and the cloud
If there will be no invasion of suburbia that defines the IoT’s genesis, most commentators on commercial application of the IoT have it wrong, too. People tend to predict the massiveness of the IoT in terms of an automated paradise, where machine-to-machine (M2M) communication is paramount. That’s a limited understanding, as the true nature of the IoT lies not in the machines that ‘will do’, but in the sensors that ‘will gather’. The heart of the IoT’s ability to become a utility is in the sensor data collection that defines an operational IoT.
Indeed, people speaking of the IoT as an era of smart machines in communication with each other are focusing on the wrong aspect. It’s true that M2M is set to soar and become mainstream for the first time in human history, but the intelligence of the IoT lies in sensor technology. The sensors will need the cloud to feed, sort and dispatch the intel it gathers in a meaningful way, using collated inputs to steer a course of action. Sensors and the cloud – that’s the backbone of the IoT.
Real time analysis of sensor gathered data also needs to be leveraged in a real-time paradigm, too.
Take the following example:
A stretch of road finds itself situated unfortunately close to a truck yard. Heavy vehicles have ruined the surface over the years, making for some dangerous driving conditions at times. In resurfacing the road, a contractor might install sensors for future monitoring. The sensors will be able to provide facts and figures on road usage and longevity, but more importantly will be able to register and signal hazardous conditions on the road.
Cloud-based apps are essential for deciphering the millions of snippets captured each second by the IoT. The IoT might gather all that there is to gather across the globe, but it’s the cloud that renders the data immediately meaningful, and it’s the cloud that will allow sensors to communicate.
In our example above, the IoT might manifest as a warning transmitted to approaching cars to slow down due to potholes emerging on the road, or excessive moisture on the road surface. In this instance, the IoT is allowing the engineers who refurbished the road to understand how it’s aging and where future weak points might be. More than that, however, sensor technology can look outward, too, signaling approaching drivers to stop or even halting them. In the era of self-driven cars, the sensor and automobile might simply override human participation and stop the car (or the car stops itself), acting on safety imperatives for the human occupants.
How liberating will the IoT be?
Apart from increasing the sheer size and voluminous nature of the world wide web a googolfold, in amongst all that buzzing data arise some pretty sci-fi implications for life on the modern planet Earth. Staying with our transportation example, entire smart cities connecting with smart cars might make traffic jams a thing of the past. Traffic lights informed by sensor data can engineer traffic movement like an orchestra, aiming for ultimate harmony among a hive of commuters.
Stoplights themselves can utilize their own localized data to change timing and facilitate traffic flow in harmony with every other traffic light in the city, alongside intel gleaned from road and roadside sensors. Commuters will be guided and facilitated to avoid construction work, accidents, localized dangerous driving conditions and severe congestion.
Although it’s sometimes hard to imagine now, the implications of the IoT are huge. Entire industries – and, indeed, the very ways of working – can change. The IoT is a massive engine for creating new services and products, and often sharply redefining existing ones. Disruptive in the extreme, the roll-out of the IoT is already well underway. Commerce and industry have the capital and desire to leverage their abilities for cost-effective operations. It won’t be long before the saturation of protocols in business spills over into a myriad of consumer applications, too.