Chances are in the last several years you have heard someone refer to “The Internet of Things”. It is a term often spoken but very rarely explained. So what is the Internet of Things exactly, and what does it have to do with the future of business? Simply put, the Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects embedded with electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity which enables these objects to collect and exchange data (think wearable fitness devices such as the FitBit) or, in layman’s terms- “smart objects”.
According to an article on baselinemag.com, “the Internet of things has evolved from an intriguing concept into an increasingly sophisticated network of devices and machines. As more and more “things” get connected to the Internet—from Fitbit activity monitors and home lighting systems to industrial machines and aircraft—the stakes grow exponentially larger. Cisco Systems estimates that approximately 12.1 billion Internet-connected devices were in use in April 2014, and that figure is expected to zoom to above 50 billion by 2020. The networking firm also notes that about 100 things currently connect to the Internet every second, and the number is expected to reach 250 per second by 2020. Eventually, the IoT will encompass about 99 percent of all objects, which currently totals approximately 1.5 trillion things.” (Read entire article here.)
It’s incredible to think about how many things in our lives are connected. Our past visions of the “future” are coming to fruition all the time. Last week the world celebrated “Back to the Future Day” – October 21, 2015 – the day Marty McFly traveled to from 1985, a fact which certainly garnered a lot of attention on social media. Sure, while a lot of the things represented haven’t happened YET (flying cars etc.), it is fascinating to see how many once “futuristic” ideas have become commonplace (video conferencing and smart glasses). I remember watching The Jetson’s as a kid and marveling at the idea of a robot maid. Now I go home and switch on my Roomba and marvel as he sucks up crumbs from under my kitchen table. I can control my thermostat at home from an app on my smartphone. I count my steps and my sleep patterns from a small device I wear on my wrist. There are alarm clocks that wake consumers gently based on their circadian rhythms. Cars can parallel park themselves. What a world!
According to Rebecca Bagley for Forbes Magazine, small businesses are (and must) enter the IoT. “Small businesses will turn to open application programming interfaces designed to simplify the process of accessing data from Internet-connected devices and using that data for business goals.” The result, collaboration, innovation and the removal of barriers to turn ideas into businesses. (Go here for the full article.)
Consumers crave connectivity and instant gratification. To keep up, small businesses must innovate. Products and services must meet a whole new standard of efficiency. I am still waiting for the machine that takes me from bed to work perfectly polished, fed, caffeinated and ready to go (another Jetsons throwback) – so if someone could please get on that, I’d be eternally grateful.