Tomorrow’s world will be interconnected to an extent that is difficult for people to imagine even now. Between mobile phones and computers, people are already connected to the internet during most of the day. However, a new generation of devices is already entering households and businesses that will completely transform retail commerce, the service industry, and commercial manufacturing.
The internet of things is coming, whether the world is ready for it or not.
The term internet of things (IoT) refers to a broad network of devices that are continuously connected to the internet. Loosely speaking, an IoT device can be any object that connects to a network to send and/or receive data. They can be as simple as a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag or as complex as a mobile phone or autonomous vehicle. Increasingly, more and more devices are being equipped with this “smart” technology for the benefit of both manufacturers and consumers.
Traditionally, IoT devices could only send or receive data. In recent years, however, the continuing miniaturization of computer memory and processors has made it possible for these devices to analyze and react to that data. This has unleashed the potential for edge computing, which pushes some of the network’s processing workload to the devices located on its outer edges rather than funneling everything back to central server. Edge computing architectures offer significant advantages in terms of speed, since devices don’t suffer latency while mission critical data flows to and from the network core.
Edge computing has made it possible to unleash the full potential of the internet of things. As edge networks continue to boost their capabilities with the proliferation of edge data centers, businesses need to give careful consideration to the ways IoT devices are already impacting their operations and how they can position themselves to take advantage of changes and innovations expected to arrive within the next few years.
The global IoT market represents a major growth opportunity for a variety of industries. Analysts expect that market to grow from $157 billion in 2016 to $457 billion by 2020, with business to business (B2B) applications of IoT technology expected to generate more than $300 billion by 2020. As businesses spend more on IoT solutions each year, it will be imperative for organizations across all industries to think about how these devices can benefit their operations.
While manufacturing, transportation, and utilities are expected to see the most rapid growth in IoT investment, the data generated by IoT devices will also open up entirely new markets. Better data means better segmentation and targeting, and with the assistance of sophisticated analytics, companies will be able to gain tremendous insights from unstructured data that can be used to identify new opportunities and areas of need. And since 65% of enterprises are expected to adopt IoT products by 2020, not embracing the technology now could mean being outstripped by competitors in the near future.
The internet has already transformed commerce by providing consumers unparalleled choice, but IoT devices promise to give an even more engaging and automated experience. Mobile apps have made it easier than ever for users to make fast and easy purchasing decisions, and much of this functionality will begin making its way to other devices. For consumers looking to cut down on time-intensive tasks, IoT automation can provide an efficient solution. Consider, for example, smart printers that automatically place delivery orders when ink levels are low, or vehicles that schedule preventative maintenance when a component is ready to fail. Combined with an ever increasing array of delivery services, IoT devices can ensure that even everyday items like groceries and cleaning supplies arrive on the customer’s doorstep without them having to ever place a single order.
For durable goods with longer lifecycles, IoT integration will make it possible for manufacturers to establish and cultivate long-term relationships with consumers. Remote monitoring, predictive analytics, and predictive maintenance will introduce a whole new range of service-oriented business models that build brand loyalty and promote higher engagement. At the same time, the data collected by these devices will make it possible to improve customer experiences. Considering that as many as 89% of businesses expect customer experience to be their primary competitive advantage in the coming years, the data collecting power of IoT devices will be an invaluable asset.
For many businesses, the visibility that IoT devices can offer across every stage of the fulfillment process and supply chain presents an exciting opportunities to maximize efficiency and flexibility. Every piece of inventory at every stage of the production and delivery process can be tracked with IoT technology, making it possible to locate goods no matter where they may be at any given time. From sensor equipped manufacturing equipment to RFID tagged clothing, IoT technology offers a level of transparency that was simply not possible in previous decades. Armed with this information, companies can identify inefficiencies, eliminate costly waste, and deliver consistently superior service to their customers.
Many of these changes are already being implemented in fleet management solutions, with companies using IoT technology to track semi-trailer trucks making long-haul and last-mile deliveries, government vehicles transporting valuable personnel, and service vehicles performing their scheduled job functions. Old fashioned barcode scanners are becoming obsolete as smart inventory sensors provide far more functionality in terms of asset tracking. With expanding fog networks making it possible for more devices be continuously connected to cloud infrastructures, the days of logistical guesswork are fast coming to an end.
The internet of things is already having a major impact on the world. Organizations need to consider how their operations are being impacted by IoT innovations today and consider how edge computing can position them to take advantage of changes on the horizon. They can begin by rethinking how IoT devices can affect customer experiences and improve their logistical infrastructure as well as exploring how edge data centers allow them to position IoT services closer to end users.
As the Marketing Manager for vXchnge, Kaylie handles the coordination and logistics of tradeshows and events. She is responsible for social media marketing and brand promotion through various outlets. She enjoys developing new ways and events to capture the attention of the vXchnge audience.