The Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to revolutionize the business world and our personal lives in the coming years. At least this is what the IT gurus and talking heads tout daily. The real question is whether or not the IoT is a good match for your business. Should you play into the hype and promise of the IoT? And if so, where should you focus your attention? Moreover, how do you best plan and implement an IoT strategy?

As a business leader, these are the questions that need answering. Especially if your organization is considering investing capital in the Internet of Things. Which according to a survey conducted by Wired , 96% of senior business leaders polled plan to use the IoT in the next three years. Let’s dig into these murky waters and see if we can shed some light on how businesses can best approach the IoT, today. In real terms, with real results.

Understanding the Many Aspects of the IoT

Before diving into whether your business is ready for the IoT or not, let’s first gain a better understanding of the existing offerings and capabilities of the IoT. If we break out the current offerings and capabilities of the IoT, as exist today, there are really two major markets:

Consumer IoT
Commercial IoT

And within each of the industry markets, we’ll find multiple market segments with varying product offerings for each.

What’s the Consumer IoT All About?

When it comes to the consumer Internet of Things, think tech gadgets. The wearable athletic bracelet that tracks your every movement, sleep patterns, and general health. Or the wildly hyped consumer appliances that automatically order your groceries when they’re running low. These modern Jetsonesque products are targeted to making our daily lives as consumers more connected and efficient. Who loves grocery shopping anyway? (Well, side note, I do, but that’s beside the point).

These modern Jetsonesque products are targeted to making our daily lives as consumers more connected and efficient. Who loves grocery shopping, anyway? (Well, side note, I do, but that’s beside the point).

While the consumer IOT market is growing year over year, many analysts are calling for a stall in the market. Mainly due to the interoperability of products. Meaning your Whirlpool fridge can’t technically talk to your Phillips Hue lightbulbs, and neither can talk with the living room television. Here’s a great Forbes article of this impending market stall in the consumer IoT market by Mike Farley, CEO of smart location company Tile.

Consumer IoT Wearables

Consumer IoT Market Segments

When we think about the varied products of the consumer market it doesn’t take long for a throbbing headache to follow. The vast array of products is simply mind boggling – from consumer staples, technology, and luxury items. In short, the main consumer IoT markets are:

  1. Appliances (think, connected washers and refrigerators)
  2. Electronics (think, connected wearables, cameras, etc.)
  3. Home Goods (think, connected light bulbs, shades, etc.)

Understanding the Power of the Commercial IoT

In terms of commercial IoT – or what GE dubs the Industrial Internet – here is where we see the most promise and utility of the Internet of Things. We’re talking about connected machines, building systems, and the like. These “smart” factories and buildings are where the rubber meets the road in terms of productivity, cost savings, and overall return on investment.

In fact, a report released by CSG International stated that 94% of businesses polled have already seen a return on their investments in the Internet of Things.

What’s more amazing is the fact that when we talk about advanced building control systems, coupled with high-efficiency building equipment, organizations can see an ROI of less than a year in some cases.

That’s huge. Far more bang for the buck.

How does the IoT fit into the traditional industrial markets? Let’s take a look.

Commercial IoT Market Segments

The commercial IoT market is primarily broken into four industrial segments. These industrial segments are expressed as:

  1. Enterprise (think, connected building infrastructure)
  2. Healthcare (think, connected hospital and doctor office medical records)
  3. Analytics (think, general big data analysis)
  4. Industrial and Software (think, manufacturing line/production efficiency)

Is my business even ready for the IoT?

So, is your business ready to dive into the Internet of Things? And if so, where should you focus your attention? Let’s start with where you should/could best focus your attention.

As we’ve laid out thus far, the two main markets for the IoT today really reside in the consumer and commercial spaces. While the consumer market is poised for future growth, the current return on investment of “smart” consumer products is yet to be seen at scale. Think, connected egg crate – not a high ROI there.

On the other hand, there are plenty of use cases for the utility of commercial IoT. This is especially true when you consider the return on investment of smarter, more efficient, connected building systems and manufacturing processes.

Getting Business Ready for the Internet of Things

Without the gamble of whether a new connected product will deliver the ROI your organization seeks, exploring the commercial Internet of Things could make far more sense. Here are a few steps to get your business ready.

Steps to ready your business for the commercial IoT:

  1. Building System Analysis: To see if your organization’s facility is a candidate for improved efficiency, conducting a comprehensive building analysis is a good first step. Working with your facility’s manager take an in-depth look at your current lighting, HVAC, and control systems and document areas for efficiency improvements.
  2. Manufacturing System Analysis: Just as in step one, if your business is in the business of manufacturing products, conducting an in-depth manufacturing system analysis is a good first step in identifying areas you could explore how the Internet of Things (or Machine to Machine communication) could improve efficiency.
  3. Education: This step really goes without saying, and if you’re reading this post you’re already out there brushing up on the IoT and how it can work with (or against) your business. Knowing what area of the IoT to research further is a big help in starting this process. Otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of time reading about how to make a “connected widget” that nobody really wants.

Business Planning for Internet of Things

Time to Dip Your Toes: Approaching the Internet-of-Things

So, you’ve conducted some in-depth analysis of your organization’s systems and you’re now ready to jump into the IoT.

Great!

Where do you go from here? That depends on the type of commercial Internet of Things market segment you choose to explore further. If you’re looking to take advantage of some low hanging fruit we’d recommend starting with a building control management solution. This gives you the opportunity to not only increase building efficiency (think, LED Lighting), it’ll give you the opportunity to expand your comfort level and lay the foundation to build upon in the future.

Start small. Approaching the commercial IoT through an advanced building control management solution can be completed in phases over time. Approaching commercial IoT in phases will also give you the flexibility you need to ensure your business is achieving the return on its investments over time.