Only a few short years ago (2013), futurists predicted the importance of all things mobile. Today, it is hard to imagine how a business could sustain any level of growth without some level of a mobile strategy.
So what is the game changer of today? Welcome to the Internet of Things, or IoT. Simply defined, IoT means that things are connected to other things, without the interaction of a human. This is far from a fad and instead is projected to be a $14 trillion industry by 2020. From deploying sensors, to collecting, managing, analyzing and securing data from these sensors, it is difficult to describe a business that will not be affected by IoT.
So what would an IoT enabled world look like for your company? Here are a few ways that you can get IoT savvy fast:
1) Understand the difference between consumer and industrial IoT
You may have heard IoT described in reference to an in-home appliance. For example, a connected refrigerator communicates directly with a grocery delivery service to restock and ship when specific items are in low supply, making the paper and pen grocery list a relic of the past.
While IoT certainly has an exciting future in the residential market, the real potential for transformation exists outside of the home. IoT applied to industrial applications such as energy, agriculture, transportation and manufacturing holds great promise to increase efficiencies and streamline operations.
Going a step further, IoT applied to cities--or to be more specific smart cities--introduces an entirely new level of innovation as the application of devices talking to devices transcends the private sector and extends to municipal governments ultimately involving citizens, residents and visitors.
2) Follow the thought leaders
There are plenty of experts talking about all aspects of IoT, from consumer to industrial to municipal sectors. With an industry that is changing so rapidly, it's smart to follow these voices on Twitter to learn what they are paying attention to. Stacey Higginbotham publishes Stacey on IoT, a great resource complete with everything from quick-read articles to podcasts. Scott Amyx is another who is constantly at the edge of the IoT conversation.
Industry publications, webinars and conferences are also excellent sources of knowledge and a chance to connect with others who are working and innovating in the space. The Global IoT Summit will take place in Geneva June 6 - 9. If you're looking for something a bit closer to home, head to Austin June 26-28 for the Smart Cities Connect Conference & Expo for the opportunity to learn more about the intersection of IoT in private and public sector. Also larger tech conferences such as SXSW Interactive and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) are all packed with IoT programming. (Note: I serve as Editor-At-Large for SmartCitiesConnect.org which is affiliated with the Smart Cities Connect Conference & Expo.)
3) Work with what you have
IoT is absolutely changing the tech landscape, but there is no reason to scrap a pre-IoT product. Instead, explore how your existing product can increase its current level of connectivity or perhaps help to solve a challenge between un-connected nodes. For example, FreshSurety is an early-stage startup based that is adding sensor technology to report on the freshness of produce shipments, a $600 billion worldwide business that loses 30% of its product from farm to table.
Also keep in mind that as devices connect to devices, massive amounts of data must be gathered, stored, secured, analyzed and shared in the cloud. It is all a series of carefully orchestrated and coordinated activity that is ripe with opportunity for businesses that are ready to take advantage.For example Spark Cognition, founded in 2013, has created an AI platform to deliver insights from the streams of data collected from connected devices that can increase efficiency in manufacturing and security.
If you consider yourself behind the curve when it comes realizing the hard and fast benefit of IoT, you're not alone. According to the 2016 MESA International and LNS Research survey on "Metrics that Matter in the Manufacturing World" about 20 percent of the 4,000 respondents reported that they did not understand IoT. However, this number is halved from the previous year.
The next 12 months will see a proliferation of IoT projects. The hype is growing and the promise is looming. And as was the trend with mobile, the transition from "it is coming soon" and "this changes everything" will happen with rapid speed. Are you prepared to take advantage of all that IoT has to offer?