How does your business advance with billions of online devices from anywhere?

Internet of Things (IoT) are devices with sensors and actuators connected to the Internet, producing and making sense of vast amounts of data. Think cars, machine tools, refrigerators, thermostats, light fixtures, and medical devices that produce, transfer, and process data in real time.

IoT is still a relatively new concept; only in 2013 did it begin to gain some traction. As businesses start investing in IoT products and services, it will become more seamless to gather real-time information. Whether it’s a smart home application that measures the levels of consumed energy, turns the lights off when everybody has gone to bed, or orders new detergent via the click of a button, the IoT can help businesses understand their consumers better by measuring their behavior within their ecosystem of devices, sensors and actuators. The IoT will become an enabler of a direct conversation between brands and costumers.

Everything that can be automated will be automated.

- Robert Cannon

IoT is exciting and simultaneously daunting for organizations to put into practice. What most firms are learning the hard way is it’s difficult to stitch together cloud-based solutions with hard-wired legacy devices and systems. Then there are challenges related to data management and security. IoT doesn’t merely open doors of opportunity for greater connectivity, it also creates more points of vulnerability. Nevertheless, IoT has made its way into just about every industry. The depth and breadth of IoT is destined to grow from the development of automating traffic signals to infant monitors to irrigation systems and seat sensor technology in trains to smart door locks to warehouse robotics.

Internet of Things

IoT got a tremendous boost from sensors getting less expensive, smarter, and smaller, even ingestible. The average cost, for instance, of an accelerometer now stands at 40 cents, compared to $2 in 2006. Sensors are now small, inexpensive, and robust enough to create information from virtually any device and can generate a wider range of data at a lower cost.
Many IoT devices operate wirelessly, while others are connected. Most IoT devices use very little bandwidth, but the sheer volume of devices going online means more bandwidth will be needed. Cisco, predicts that as many as 1 million new connections per hour will be added to the Internet by 2020. As IoT grows, it will be necessary to further improve coverage and bandwidth of mobile networks to accommodate these changes.

The proliferation of IoT devices has reached critical mass leading to drastic changes in business and in our lives. Specifically, we see massive, digital-driven breakthroughs happening across three fronts:

1. Smart Facilities

IoT technologies rapidly accelerate the transformation of industrial factories into software enabled factories. Businesses begin to provide smart connected conveyor belts, air compressors, cutting machines and more to enable automation and orchestration of factory planning and operations. This allow, for instance, better asset tracking which is extremely valuable for manufacturers that build large or complex assets (such as aircraft components).

Mobile monitoring and predictive maintenance improve with IoT linking facilities with data insights from every location to drive better business decisions forward. This enables businesses as much as, for instance, hospitals or homeowners to identify and address failures before they happen. By using sensors and real-time monitoring, IoT keeps track of irregularities that occur on equipment in use and alert you when it’s time for maintenance. In addition, it can predict a maintenance schedule, for example, based on usage patterns. For example, remote patient monitoring allows medical professionals to monitor vital signs and assess bodily reaction to treatments given to each individual without needing to be in the same physical location as the patient.

2. Smart Homes

Customers are looking for more automated solutions to perform their daily chores that make lives easier. When most consumers think about smart homes, motion sensors and smart thermostats are two of the first things to come to mind. For instance, a smart heating and air-conditioning system at home will sense the ambient temperature and the tenant’s schedule and automatically start before the tenant enters the home. This enhances the user experience and lets the system operate more efficiently. Smart building technology has progressed far beyond these consumer-friendly touch points. Contemporary buildings have hundreds or even thousands of sensors reporting vast quantities of data that are combined to run the building more energy efficient and user friendly.

3. Wearable Technologies

Health- and fitness-oriented wearable devices that offer biometric measurements such as heart rate, perspiration levels, and even complex measurements like oxygen levels in the bloodstream are increasingly becoming available. Tracking body temperature, for example, might provide an early indication of whether a cold or the flu is on the way. In addition to such IoT devices, there are other wearable technologies emerging that in addition to recording data, are able to perform functions based on command or perceived situation. For instance, smart bandages are equipped with sensors that can assess the size of the wound underneath to record if it is healing or not, monitor for infection and administer topographic solutions if necessary. Or smart contact lenses monitoring blood glucose levels by analyzing tear fluid.

How Businesses Can Evolve

Estimates put the number of IoT devices, in all applications, at 25 billion in use today, with growth projected to 50 billion by 2023. Clearly, expansion in the use of smart devices is an unstoppable force. IoT brings the network effect to various industries and businesses. In other words, each user of a product increases its value. Think of the telephone a century ago. The greater the number of people who used Bell’s invention, the more valuable it became to all of them. The telephone became a platform for countless new businesses its inventor never imagined.

Companies must digitally transform one or more of these three functional areas:

1. Data Networks

The goal with networked IoT devices is to gain actionable insights from their data. This require a new data infrastructure. To capitalize on IoT technologies, companies need to implement technology that can handle the constant stream of data in addition to looking at more effective ways to analyze the data, such as machine learning and deep learning in order to get actionable insights. It’s getting easier to develop and deploy IoT solutions because providers of IoT platforms—software intended to integrate IoT hardware, networks, and applications—are increasingly pre-integrating third-party technologies through vendor partnerships. Over the past two years, leading IoT platform providers have launched and expanded their partner ecosystems.

2. Decision Making

To help businesses make better decisions in real time, new and exciting opportunities are being created by enormous amounts of data from IoT devices. For instance, supply chain ecosystems are among the biggest beneficiaries of IoT becoming much more effective, predictable and cost-efficient. Sensors, controllers and other IoT-connected devices will reside on everything from individual products to crates and shipping containers. They will be embedded throughout factories and warehouses and will help track fleets of ships, trucks and other vehicles providing real-time, end-to-end visibility and control across their supply chains.

There are also many benefits to be gained from intelligent, real-time decision-making at the point where IoT devices connect to the network—what’s known as the “edge.” For example, manufacturers can detect anomalies in high-velocity assembly lines in real time. Retailers can receive alerts as soon as a shelved item is out of stock. Automotive companies can increase safety through intelligent technologies like collision avoidance, traffic routing, and eyes-off-the-road detection systems.

3. Robotics

In various industries or even in our homes or offices, robots come in all shapes and sizes, from heavy robotic arms on a shop floor to greeting robots in retail stores, restaurants, or hotels. Robots are also appearing through systems of connected and increasingly intelligent devices. For instance, a self-driving connected vehicle is a robot: but it involves multiple smaller robots or intelligent connect sensors and actuators.

IoT robots are able to monitor events, fuse sensor data from various sources, use local and distributed intelligence to determine the best course of action, and then act to control or manipulate objects in the physical world. They are not just passive; they really do something and manipulate the environment. Increasingly robots are replacing routine predictable and repetitive manual work. Every third activity in 60% of occupations could be automated. This means that many workers will work alongside rapidly evolving machines, which will require worker skills to evolve also.

Final thoughts

Internet of Things is only at the beginning. A new Internet emerges with billions of smart, online devices and robotics anywhere. And it is critical to all lines of business.

How does IoT benefit your business? How can you achieve an end-to-end integrated supply chain? Contact Upside Digital to learn how we can help your organization to succeed in the digital era.

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