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Business Technology: The Internet of Things

Picture this. It is the start of a work day. You leave your house, hearing the door automatically lock behind you. Your car’s GPS syncs to the address of the first meeting scheduled on your calendar.

As you drive to your destination, a reminder is set for your next rego check-up, added wirelessly to your calendar. During the meeting, your notes sync to your colleagues’ laptops updating them live although they’re not at the meeting with you. When you arrive at the office, the heating automatically senses a new person and adjusts the temperature, enabling a more energy efficient environment.

You go through your inventory and see that orders have already been made for the items you are low on as your stockroom shelves communicate with each other. The business is saving money on energy bills as wireless sensors change lighting and heating use accordingly based on the presence of people on the site.

Your heart skips a beat when you see the rise of your profits for the year and your doctor, sitting in his office miles away, wonders why your heart monitor bleeped.

It may sound like science fiction but with the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming more prevalent, it is a highly probable future. And it is arriving much sooner than expected.

According to Gartner, 4.9 billion connected things will be in use this year. That is a 30 percent increase from 2014. It is even said to reach 25 billion by 2020. IoT is a powerful force for business transformation and now is the time to research how you can take your business into the future.

“The digital shift instigated by the Nexus of Forces (cloud, mobile, social and information), and boosted by IoT, threatens many existing businesses. They have no choice but to pursue IoT, like they’ve done with consumerisation of IT,” said Jim Tully, vice president and analyst at Gartner.

Gartner predicts this sudden expansion will boost the economic impact of the IoT as consumers, businesses, city authorities, hospitals and many other entities find new ways in which to exploit technology. The company predicts that IoT will support total services spending of $69.5 billion in 2015 and $263 billion by 2020.

While consumers’ use will drive the number of connected things, Gartner says enterprise will account for most of the revenue. Manufacturing, utilities and transportation are expected to be the top three verticals using IoT this year.

Nowadays, new devices and ordinary objects are being reinvented with digital sensing, computing and communications capabilities. Adding this functionality provides both new and previously passive objects with a “digital voice” and the ability to create and deliver an information stream reflecting their status and that of their surrounding environment.

Studies are rising left, right and centre to look at the endless possibilities of using IoT. In Australia, a research team from the University of Melbourne is looking into IoT to create “smart cities”, where networked devices have the ability to compute, sense and interact with their surroundings.

The prediction is that in the next few years’ built-in intelligence and connectivity will become standard and rapidly spread to mainstream products and services.

However, no innovation comes without issues. For IoT, the issue is security, especially given how much data is going to be travelling to and from devices. The uptake of IoT needs to come with a warning. Experts say there are potential problems with all this connectivity. Security needs to be in the forefront of IoT, built into the foundation of the systems businesses are using.

“The IoT consists of islands of sensor networks that are meant to operate unattended, potentially in harsh and even hostile environments. Security is thus essential to ensuring the intended operation of the IoT. For businesses and consumers, security enables the IoT to be used with confidence,” the Melbourne University research said.

It is normal to be sceptical in the adoption of new technology, especially for businesses with very little knowledge of IoT. However, today’s landscape is changing fast and IoT is definitely here to stay. The best that business owners can do is to seek the advice of one of the many expert companies who deal with IoT systems to ensure that you find the best one that suits your needs.

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