The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a network of connected devices and machines that can monitor themselves as well as gather contextual information using sensors, and share it with other devices and services.
It is a relatively new concept, but it has been making big moves in the consumer market recently. Connected products for the home are becoming more common and widespread, from kitchen appliances to home lighting and heating solutions, to motor vehicle tracking devices.
Businesses however have yet to take advantage of the opportunities that the IoT has to offer. While the trend may be taking off in the consumer sphere there are yet to be many mainstream business applications developed around the concept.
There is however a lot of potential for IoT technology to be utilised in many aspects of business. Some business and government applications to look out for in the near future include:
• Connected advertising and marketing. High-tech above-the-line advertising mechanisms, such as smart billboards, are expected to become a major trend in the coming years.
• Intelligent traffic management systems. The much hated e-tolls are actually an example of this, but there are also many other uses, such as easing congestion, route planning and parking space management.
• Electricity and water management systems. Smart systems that manage and monitor usage can reduce wastage and lead to substantial cost savings.
• Product management. From stock control to logistics, connected technology makes it easy to manage a product through its entire life cycle.
• Industrial uses. Factories with connected assembly lines where parts are requested in real-time by the very machines that need to assemble them.
While there is huge potential for the IoT to change the way many businesses run, connecting a large number of objects and bringing real-time intelligence into business activities requires a high level of cheap, ubiquitous connectivity, and powerful big data capabilities. Organisations will have to solve these issues before they can leverage the power of the IoT.
There are also other issues which must be taken in to account and resolved before the technology becomes widespread. These include questions around security, trust, privacy, ownership of data, and contractual models. These are all still in their infancy and will need to be addressed in due time.