What’s the deal with the Internet of Things?

By the end of 2018, there will be 11,2 billion connected things in use around the world, reflecting a staggering growth over the past couple of years. The forecast does not include smartphones or computers; it refers to all sorts of smart devices designed to help businesses and consumers work faster and live better. This is why the Internet of Things, this network of devices that are being connected to the web every day, is poised to be one of the most promising investments in any industry for years to come.
According to Research and Markets, the global IoT market will leap from 170.57 billion dollars last year to more than 561 billion by 2025. And this might be a conservative estimate if we look at all the trends coming together this year already.
It might seem as if sudden, explosive growth is coming, but none of this happened overnight. Although framing it as IoT is a relatively new idea, the concept has been around for almost 20 years. It used to be referred to as “machine-to-machine” communications (M2M), heavily based upon GPRS modules that have since become obsolete and are waiting to be replaced by newer standards, such as Narrowband IoT and LTE-M. A slew of timely innovations, from smartphone apps to artificial intelligence and ubiquitous high-speed Wi-Fi, opened the doors to this moment where we are now: at the brink of an IoT revolution.
Gartner says the bulk of connected devices will be in the consumer market this year, around 7 billion. We’re talking about smart lamps, connected doorbells, WiFi-enabled vacuum cleaners, and many other appliances that are “talking” to each other in homes across the world. As consumers push for more products and spend more money, businesses will also raise their investments and go from small pilots to big IoT deployments.
The impact of IoT on businesses
Why should a company look at IoT if it doesn’t operate in the consumer market? Yes, being able to ask a home assistant to turn off the lights in the upstairs bathroom sounds great and controlling the temperature through the television while laying on the couch is superb. While those are the consumer-facing scenarios that have gotten IoT so much attention lately, the business case for IoT is much stronger.
Imagine a traditional ice cream company that uses only organic ingredients with no preservatives or artificial flavors. The slightest temperature variation in its refrigeration systems can doom an entire batch and translate into thousands of dollars in losses every month, depending on how big the company is. By using IoT sensors placed inside the refrigeration systems, the ice cream brand can prevent this from happening. The sensors communicate with a central hub 24/7 and produce email and SMS alerts whenever a reading falls outside of the programmed goals. Did a worker forget to properly seal a container door? Is the machine experiencing malfunctions? Think of what this will do to training, proactive maintenance, and quality assurance. The great thing about IoT projects is that they are quickly and effectively measurable.
There are no limits to the application of connected devices in business scenarios. From sensors in manufacturing facilities to field devices and location devices in healthcare, the number of projects being developed right now is truly incredible. Smart electric meters in the office can help dramatically lower utility bills and carbon footprints. Sensors in forests can help prevent wildfires.
The wealth of data derived from all these things is also a big part of the allure of IoT, as AI-infused analytics solutions are increasingly better at extracting insights that help in critical decision making. So, no matter what industry you are on, you can reap the benefits of IoT. What will you choose to do?
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