You’ve probably heard about the Internet of Things (IoT) by now, but you may only have a vague idea of what it is and how it works because it’s something of a futuristic concept. While many of our devices are already connected to each other and the internet, in the future, almost everything that has an on/off switch will be connected.
Everything that can be connected will be connected to a giant network, from washing machines to jet engines. Right now we have people-to-people networks and some people-to-things networks, but in the future, we will also have a plethora of things-to-things networks. The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing industries throughout the world not just for individuals, but for businesses, too.
Here are a few examples of how businesses will change:
Inventory tracking will be automatic
If you’ve ever worked in retail, you’re probably familiar with the quarterly or annual inventory all-nighters when everything in a store has to be scanned to make sure the numbers you have in your computer databases match up with what you have in your stockrooms and on the shop floor. Soon this will no longer be necessary — a business will not only know how much they have of everything, but they’ll also know where it is at all times. Inventory management will be simple because amounts and statistics will be current at all times since everything will be integrated into the same network.
Big data will be even bigger
Although we already have plenty of metrics about just about everything, this will continue to increase. If you manage a business, you won’t have to walk around to see if people are busy. Your computer screen will give you raw statistics about how productive your employees are at work. Similarly, you won’t need to guess what customers expect from your business, how much they’re willing to pay and how much they’ll buy. Buying behavior and interests will be easy to track. Additionally, you won’t have to try to figure out how your business is doing. Every detail will be at your fingertips because data analysis will be ubiquitous and visualization software will make it easier to understand the significance of the numbers.
The fast-paced life will be faster
Since everything will be connected, traffic lights will be coordinated so that you’ll have a string of green lights as you drive (or your car drives you) to work. If you don’t have a car, public transportation will still get you to work quickly, because it, too, will be streamlined, coordinated and sped up. You will get to work faster every day, making your commute shorter. Still, that’s only the beginning. Everything else will be faster, too. When a customer clicks an add-to-cart button on your eCommerce store, they’ll receive their merchandise even faster.
Opportunities and Challenges
How soon will it take and how big will it be? A Forbes article, A Simple Explanation Of “The Internet Of Things,” by Jacob Morgan references Gartner’s research findings for the answer: “The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020, there will be over 26 billion connected devices… That’s a lot of connections (some even estimate this number to be much higher, over 100 billion).”
It’s actually difficult to predict what opportunities will arise. Besides better inventory management, data tracking, and faster machines, we’ll also live in a world in which energy and manufacturing will be cheaper, in which remote work will be the norm rather than the exception, and in which people and machines and public services will be more efficient and productive.
There will also be a number of unusual challenges. Device management will be incredibly complex, many industries will become obsolete, and security will be an even bigger issue. When it comes to device management, things will be complicated. Something as simple as updating software will become one of the hardest tasks in IT if it has to be done manually. Trades like construction work may no longer need skilled labor, as construction will become at least partially automated, taxis won’t need drivers as cars might drive themselves and delivery businesses may become fully automated. Unfortunately, cybercrime will also continue, so the need for improved security will be on the rise.
In conclusion, if you’re in business or plan to be in business by the year 2020, you should pay close attention to emerging trends to stay ahead of the competition when it comes to adapting to the rapid changes in technological integration.