Have you ever heard the term Internet of Things (IoT)? It’s a hot topic that’s tossed around a lot in the tech world. But for some reason, it’s often talked about in the future tense… so much so, that many people think it couldn’t possibly be here yet. It’s just too advanced – right? Wrong. The Internet of things is a booming network, and it’s happening right now. Many companies are taking advantage of this innovative technology to boost efficiency and streamline customer interactions. We are going to discuss this new era of technology and how you can be a part of it.
What is Internet of Things?
IoT was first born sometime between 2008 and 2009 when there were more devices connected to the internet than there were people connected to the internet. But what is the Internet of Things, really?
IoT is machine-to-machine communication that involves the collecting and transmitting of data to one another. The data is then internally analyzed and sent back to the user so updates can be received in real-time or so that administrators of those networks can use the data for analysis and other purposes, which we’ll discuss later.
For example, let’s say you own a commercial transportation business that transports people, by way of bus, from one location to the next. One way you might integrate IoT technology into your business is to have the bus constantly sending communications to a smartphone app. This app can then send push notifications to potential riders notifying them exactly where the bus is at all times, so they know when to arrive at the bus stop. The bus could also send communications alerting the business when a potential accident or breakdown occurs so the proper authorities can be dispatched, reducing potentially crucial response times.
The above scenario exemplifies the two key elements of the IoT:
- The communication was truly machine-to-machine; and
- It shows that machine-to-machine communication is not intended to remove the human aspect, but to augment the IoT technology into our jobs and daily lives.
The “things” portion in the IoT refers to the devices that are communicating with each other. Other examples of “things” could be your smartwatch, coffee maker, tablets, or smart tv. They could include anything as small as a pill-sized computer chip to something as large as an airplane. There are billions of these devices that are currently connected (10.7 billion to be exact), and this booming trend will continue with more devices being connected daily.
Why Should You Care?
Large companies are investing billions of dollars into the Internet of Things. Google made a 3.2-billion-dollar purchase of Nest (an IoT company) and has investments in additional companies totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. Many other companies, not just large ones, are also hoping to have a part in this as well.
Consumers and businesses alike are going to keep connecting more and more devices to the internet as time passes. In 2019 there was an average of 8 connected devices per person. Expert’s project this will increase to 13.6 devices per person in 2022 and in 2025 they project an astonishing 75 billion devices will be connected to the internet worldwide. And as the years pass and the technology continues to develop (like with the implementation of 5G networks), the amount of time that the devices are not connected to the internet will decrease and devices will constantly be providing real-time updates￼.
We can see that the IoT is impacting us personally, but what about on a larger, corporate scale? The pandemic truly revealed the vulnerabilities of supply chains around the world. Companies will be looking for solutions and methods to reduce or eliminate these vulnerabilities. One answer lies within IoT technology and its capabilities.
How Can the Internet of Things Improve Your Business?
The pandemic particularly exposed the lack of end-to-end visibility in the global supply chain. Businesses’ inability to predict future obstacles or challenges that may occur within the supply chain has added a level of difficulty that left many feeling unprepared. Because of the predictive capabilities and real-time data updates that the IoT can provide, businesses can construct end-to-end visibility to anticipate those future obstacles and challenges.
IoT also lends itself to other unique capabilities that can help you improve your business by:
- Providing health and safety benefits. For example, an IoT-controlled building would be able to monitor the health conditions of employees working the floor. If a medical emergency were to occur on the floor, the system (through notifications and alerts) would send help right away and potentially prevent worse injury or death.
- Expanding marketing initiatives by connecting users and devices. IoT can provide in–depth information and data analysis for multiple or individual target markets. It does this by collecting data on customer location, spending habits, demographics, and the like. In turn, the information provided in the form of reporting will outline what your customers are most interested in. Additionally, through historical data, IoT devices can push targeted marketing messages to the customer at just the right time. By now, we are all familiar with ad retargeting. You may search for an item of interest on your favorite device and—whether you purchase it or not—over the next couple of days you will see advertisements for or related to that product. These may populate on your web browser, in your email, or on your social media pages, etc. When an organization has more information about its target market or specific customer profile, they can make the consumer’s interaction with them more frictionless and seamless. Since they know the customer’s likes, dislikes, and preferences, this only becomes more accurate over time astray collect data.
- Reducing long-term costs. Many large companies are choosing IoT tech as an investment for long-term cost reduction. Collecting vast amounts of data no longer requires the company to go to the consumer to get the information. The consumers willingly provide all the data needed in exchange for the ease-of-use provided by apps or online shopping experiences. Think about it: when was the last time you provided a website or app with your email and birthdate to get a birthday discount? Through your devices, companies can then access this data any day, at any time, and at any location.
Concerns of Internet of Things
The Internet of Things may seem great, but it’s certainly not without flaw. In fact, there are sizable security concerns with IoT technology.
Let’s go back to our example about how the IoT can aid a business with health and safety concerns. The device was able to monitor the health conditions of the employees on the floor. That may seem like a great thing. But you may also wonder, who else outside of the business has access to the names, current health conditions, and medical information of workers? Some experts have concerns about the ethical ramifications of an IoT network being used as a health-monitoring device network. We’ve seen similar concerns voiced by health professionals and ethicists regarding the use of Covid-19 passports, which would also utilize IoT technology.
As with any device connected to the internet, there is always the concern of hacking. Hackers have many methods of getting into your devices and stealing the personal data of employees and of the business. There have been several cases in the past when IoT devices were easily hacked, and important data was stolen from seemingly harmless devices (like a Wi-Fi password being recovered from an electric kettle).
Fortunately, IoT companies are taking security more seriously these days with HIPAA-compliant devices. These companies are also identifying sensitive data and taking the proper steps to protect that data. Several companies are releasing devices that are more difficult to hack. Others are even hiring “ethical hackers” to test the systems by hacking in to reveal and improve upon vulnerabilities.
Now that you know the pros and cons of the Internet of Things, it’s up to you to decide. Do you want to be at the forefront of this technology that can potentially change your business in a big way? Or do you opt to not adopt it out of concern for potential security issues?
No matter what you choose, one thing is for sure: the Internet of Things is not going anywhere, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.