The Internet of Things, or the IoT, is but the latest tech buzzword to hit the market. This time at lightning speed. Tech conferences from around the world are talking about it. Tech behemoths, like Intel, are talking about it. Even what have been historically considered industrial manufacturers, such as General Electric, are chatting about the IoT. Is your business?

If not, you soon will be. There is simply no doubt about it. Like it or not, the IoT wave is coming to an organization near you – in some way, shape, or form, that is.
So what is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things (IoT): 101

There are plenty of folks, some technology veterans, that will say the IoT is nothing new and that it has been around since the beginning days of the Internet. And when we think about the concept of the Internet in its most general form, they have a point. I mean, the entire purpose of the internet is to connect computers, people, and places.

Whether you buy into the historical premise of the Internet of Things being a decades-old truth, or the latest advancement in technology capabilities – that include more advanced sensors, computing power, and deep analytics – today’s Internet of Things boils down to a single sentence:

The IoT is the convergence of the physical and digital worlds.

What does this mean to the average business? And why should a business care? Well, let’s take a deeper look at what this means, exactly, and how it impacts (or better yet, empowers) organizations.

The A,B,C, of the IoT

Taking a deeper dive into what we mean by the “convergence of the physical and digital world,” here are some practical A, B, C’s to first work with.

Augment

the capabilities of today’s more advanced, low-powered, sensors are providing the augmenting power needed to gain greater insight to the physical world – thereby expanding our general understanding of what’s happening.

Let’s put this into a more concrete context.

Say we have a warehouse – or even an office building for that matter – that historically has keep great track of their overall energy bills by implementing an automated record keeping system that digitized their monthly electrical bills and provided them with automated reports detailing how much money they spent on energy each month.
This is great. They are at least gaining some insight to how their facility is using energy, but it’s still a reactionary process. They can’t make changes until they see the past month’s utility bill. This is where the augmenting power of the IoT comes in.

Using embedded sensors (i.e. think new LED lighting fixtures that each house a multi-sensor), the facility fundamentally expands their insight – and that’s just lighting.

Baseline

The augmenting power of today’s Internet of Things-enabled devices (ie. Again, think sensors), facilities, companies, and people now have the insight from the physical world that they need to use the digital world to baseline data. This could be energy use, machine functionality, manufacturing line productivity, the list goes on and on.

Using the same example above we see that by augmenting the physical structure of the facility with digital enhancements – such as embedded lighting sensors – facility management now have the capability and capacity to collect and analyze data to baseline detailed energy usages with far more specifically – versus simply looking at their monthly utility bill to see how much energy they used.

This can now identify potential maintenance issues, profit from efficiency opportunities, and better plan operational budgets – all because their physical world has been augmented with digital data.

Correct

What’s meant by correct?

Well, seeing how the IoT allows for the augmentation (or expansion) of the physical world through sensory technology, and by using that insight and data we can now baseline virtually anything (production flow, energy, space utilization, etc.), the third prong to the benefits of the IoT is the actionable power of our insight. Through rigorous analytics we businesses can make highly informed decisions regarding their business operations, products, and people – making correction where needed. These could be correction to production processes, product development, manufacturing productivity, energy usages, better space utilization for office spaces, etc.

The X,Y,Z, of the IoT

We understand the hype that the ABC’s of the IoT provide, but what are the XYZ’s of the IoT? Where does the Internet of Things go from here?

The power of augmenting our physical world through digital means – which in the process expands our general operational knowledge and business insight – is undeniable. The question that remains is just how far will the Internet of Things go? And when will we see mainstream adoption of the IoT?

Well, here are some quick answers to these two important questions.

Answer #1

How far will the Internet of Things go?

The limitations of the Internet of Things, right now, seems to be interoperability. What’s meant by this? If we look at the IoT from a higher level (a 30,000ft view if you will), we can see challenges in communication between systems.

Let’s look at an example. Say we have our office/warehouse as in our earlier example, and say they’ve now migrated all their lighting fixtures to high-efficiency LED lighting with embedded sensors to capture operational data. Then let’s say next year they install a product tracking solution to provide deeper insight to their warehouse logistics. The question is: Will these two system communicate together on a single platform, or will they be siloed?

Couple this with the advent of a manufacturing line, consumer products, and we can start to see a very muddy picture indeed.

Interoperability. This will be one of the greatest limitation to the IoT at present.

Answer #2

When will we see mass adoption of the Internet of Things?

It may be some time before we see the true mass adoption of the IoT – especially when we consider the consumer side of the market as with the personal computer in the early 80’s.

What we can say for certain is that the Industrial Internet of Things is poised to make massive moves in 2017. Between smart building controls, lighting, machine, HVAC, and production line advancements, the commercial mass adoption of the IoT (or Industrial Internet of Things) is a lot closer than many may think.