Since its inception, the internet has transformed the business world. As innovations in the field continue, a new vision is set to shape future of how we work and live; that of a continually connected world in which not only devices, but everyday items seamlessly collaborate to improve efficiency, create new opportunities and improve lives. The Internet of Things (IoT) is already rising as a trend and is identified as a top priority for IT decision makers going forward; with 12.2 billion connected devices estimated by 2020 according to Cisco, as reported by zdnet. Analysts Gartner estimate that the Internet of Things will support total services spending of $235 billion in 2016; an increase of 22% on 2015, showing the speed of growth. IoT can serve a tri-fold purpose, by providing data that is:
- descriptive (alerts)
- predictive (flagging problems)
- prescriptive (offering solutions)
With an abundance of Big Data to be generated by connecting “things” to the internet, how will leveraging this transform the way we do business?
1. Getting your goods out: Fleet management and transportation
Connecting vehicles, drivers and road systems to the internet will not only present opportunities for maximizing efficiency and reducing costs, but will deliver vast energy savings that will promote green initiatives globally.
Sensors will be able to transmit information about real-time traffic updates, road conditions or changes in pick-up and drop-off demands and assign routing options in response, improving delivery times and driver efficiency. Organizations will be able to centrally monitor and manage goods while maintaining visibility over driver behavior; an initiative already pioneered by Fleet Management organization Omnitracs via their MobileCast app and IoT technology.
Meanwhile, stoplights with embedded video sensors and real-time traffic information will be able to adjust signalling patterns to minimize unnecessary stoppage, not only resulting in time savings but saving the 17% of fuel consumption caused by idling at red lights in urban areas – and smart parking monitors or drones can reduce the 30% of congestion generated by drivers cruising streets seeking a spot, as reported by The Globe and Mail. In addition, smart vehicular technology will alert organizations about required maintenance, even booking it in for service on your behalf, or alert a central location when issues arise.
Fleet Management and Operation specialists Fleetsphere already offer the use of vehicle telemetry to feedback metrics and information on the location and usage of special vehicles through the use of sensors, fitted to various components on the vehicle. This spans real-time tracking and GPS information through to speed, temperature or maintenance alerts and more.
2. Asset tracking and tracing
If you have an asset-intensive business, you’ll appreciate the challenges presented by maintaining visibility and control over them. Whether it be in the form of computer hardware, facilities, inventory or more; the Internet of Things will help you monitor equipment, devices and workspaces to drive productivity, safety and outcomes. Have stock automatically re-order itself when supplies run low and alerts sent when spillage or disruption occurs during production. IoT can show you where devices, vehicles, goods or other assets are, or whether staff off-premise have the correct equipment to complete certain tasks.
Imagine a world where a customer service order comes in and through intuitive intelligence, Internet of Things will not only book out the necessary personnel to complete the task but also order, bring together or collate all the necessary materials, tools, vehicles and information to the right place within the allocated timeslot, considering all service bookings around it to ensure maximum efficiency and minimal movement of assets to save time, energy and cost.
3. Payment (POS, vending, ATM, parking)
IoT is already live and kicking in the world of payment, with Apple leading the way following the introduction of ApplePay to allow users to not only play with their smartphones but through wearable technology, such as watches.
Future developments will take this one step further; for example, restaurants or retailers will be able to register customers the moment they step on-site; charging them electronically as they digitally place their food order or even permitting customers to simply walk out the door, sending an e-receipt for items tracked on exit. Facilities such as gyms or clubs will be able to offer a ‘pay-per-use’ facility that will use GPS tracking to only charge users for the time and frequency that they actually use facilities. An integrated ‘citypass’ apps can offer individuals a one-stop-shop for all transport or government facilities; enable “San Francisco”, for example, and you will seamlessly pay for your bus, tram, ferry or car parking and entrance to Alcatraz without even taking your device out of your pocket.
4. Remote monitoring and control
The presence of humans on the production line is already on the decrease; for industries such as manufacturing or healthcare in particular, the growth of remote monitoring and control will play a pivotal role as the Internet of Things continues to grow.
Diabetic patients can already purchase add-on devices to record and even transmit blood sugar readings or monitor their medication, as pioneered by Berlin-based start-up Insulin Angel, while a range of fitness applications already allow us to record what we eat, the quality of our sleep, how often we exercise or our blood pressure and heart rate. By transmitting this data to medical personnel, doctors will be better-equipped to ensure patients are receiving the best possible treatment for their unique profile or needs; likewise, gyms or fitness centers will be able to track this information and intuitively tailored work-outs, meals or activities to provide 360-degree wellbeing advice.
In manufacturing, plant managers will be able to monitor and respond to real-time metrics, identify equipment failures and personnel to ensure maximum efficiency and deal with issues promptly, without ever being present in the actual facility. Translate this into the office and IoT will be able to reliably monitor staff absence or track meetings, provide analytics on performance or productivity and much, much more.
5. Smart energy
Big-brand name Nest, who were acquired by Google for $3.2 billion in 2014, have been the forerunners on the IoT front for energy and home management, offering smart solutions for use in the domestic market. With the capacity to respond to a multitude of data including weather information, peak usage times and pricing, personal habits and more, smart energy will continue to evolve and support organizations as well as individuals in reducing usage and savings costs.
Design firm Carlo Ratti Associati have already driven this approach through their design of a digital building management system that automatically alters lighting, heating, air-conditioning and room bookings based on the presence of people, which is communicated via inbuilt sensors. What’s more, individuals can personalize the experience with “temperature bubbles” set via smartphones, that speak to fans in the ceiling and follow that person around as they move – adjusting to their personal preference wherever they are.
Use of energy analytics will empower organizations to move high-consumption activities to low-demand times, or respond to real-time data about the number of employees in-office to adapt usage accordingly. The savings will not only impact the individual business, but global consumption rates also.
The major concern for those within the industry remains the threat to privacy and security. As increasingly complex, comprehensive and potentially sensitive data is collected by “things” globally and transmitted to the internet and operational and information technology converges, the threat to individual and business also rises. Vulnerabilities will be enhanced by globalization, with the Internet of Things potentially operating across multiple nationalities and jurisdictions.
Collating personal data about employees or customers and their habits will also call for clearly defined policies over collection and usage – and with wearable devices and intelligent technology already translating across the boundaries of work and home, the threat to work-life balance will be considerable. The Internet of Things is set to have a huge impact on business; but will need careful management, if it is to be truly successful.