Alarm clocks that signal coffee pots. Driverless cars that react to environmental changes and prevent accidents. Smart dust particles that measure chemicals in soil or diagnose problems in the human body. This isn't the future, it's the Internet of Things (IoT)--and it's here now.
The IoT is the ability of any size and type smart electronic device to automatically communicate with other smart devices across a shared network. And this smart "stuff" is everywhere today.
According to Intel, we're going from about 2 billion IoT capable objects in 2006 to a projected 200 billion by 2020, which equates to about 26 smart objects for every human on Earth! Appropriately dubbed "The Big Data Bang," the total global worth of this technology could reach as much as $6.2 trillion by 2025.
Understandably, an evolutionary event as impactful as the IoT has business leaders in a bit of a cold sweat. This technology is changing everything about the way we live.
Here are three unexpected ways the IoT will also impact the workplace:
1. Complete Visibility at All Times
You expect advancements like the IoT to boost efficiency and productivity. But what you might not expect is the level of visibility you're about to gain. From every computer, mobile device or piece of equipment in your building to every person--the IoT will enable you to see all the moving parts of your business in real time.
Your entire office building may be comprised of smart appliances like thermostats that can zero in on specific zones to detect how much energy is used and when. Or pipes that alert building management when they are leaking.
The benefits of such buildings are twofold: 1) As smart buildings learn from their inhabitants, they'll automatically adjust to the perfect work environment; and 2) maximum and efficient control over utilities means lower utility costs, less overhead, a more competitive bottom line and the near elimination of malfunctions that could result in down time.
2. Actionable Data
We have all these devices sending and receiving data; communicating information back and forth about how we humans interact with the world around us. Businesses that can capture this information and turn it into action have the advantage.
For example, let's say you own a retail outlet. IoT enables you to use Bluetooth to track customers who have smartphones.
You can equip your store shelves with smart beacons that trigger coupons when a customer walks by a particular product. Or monitor the path customers take around the store. Or observe which displays draw more traffic and which get passed up.
Collecting a history of these interactions permits you to improve the customer experience.
Another example is monitoring how employees use office space. A company called Enlighted replaces outdated office lighting with LED fixtures that track activity across the entire building and "shed light" on where and when employees spend the most time.
With this data, leaders can adapt floor plans, better manage work spaces and ultimately enhance office space utilization to support greater efficiency, collaboration and productivity.
3. Safer, Healthier Work Environments
Being able to track each employee's movement means being able to ensure they are safe at all times.
This can protect, for example, an electrician who is called out to work on power lines after a damaging storm or a sales rep assigned to a not-so-safe territory. If they stop for a long period of time, or rapidly change altitude (signaling a fall) managers will know to check in or dispatch help right away.
Wearable devices are also equipped to capture and share advanced biotelemetry data, including the wearer's heartbeat and respiration. If an abnormality is detected through remote monitoring, it could be the difference between life and death.
The major theme here is that the IoT leaves little to question. Business leaders have never been so well connected with both the intimate and grand details of their operations. Visibility and data is only expected to get more vivid and in-depth.
And just as Sir Francis Bacon stated back in 1597, "Knowledge is power." Over 400 years later, how will you use this knowledge to empower your business?