You can hear the trumpets sounding the arrival of the Internet of Things (IoT) daily. They’re honestly easy to hear. Everyone from your proverbial IT geeks to business behemoths like Microsoft, Cisco, and GE are pushing the promise of the IoT.

But with all of the hype and promise abound, what is the reality of the IoT?  How much of this tech movement really matters to ordinary businesses? Should businesses really pay attention to all of this market chatter? Let’s find out.

Through our discussion today, we’ll help to better define the nuances of the IoT and shed light on its utility today.

The Internet of Things Revolution

It’s here they say, the Internet of Things. And with billions of connected devices already flooding our daily lives, it’s really not much of a surprise to hear. In fact, by 2025 researchers predict there will be over 100 billion IoT devices connected to networks.

Now, whether it’s 10 million or 100 billion the fact is there will be more connected devices tomorrow than today.  The real question is, just how far are these connected devices going to go? And moreover, what will their impact be on our personal lives and business operations?

By the sounds of the hype surrounding connected consumer goods, you’d think we’re on the cusp of a technology revolution. But in all honesty, I’m just not convinced that the fact my “connected” toothbrush can tell my coffee maker to make coffee justifies a tech revolution. Do you? I mean, cool, my coffee will be ready by the time I’m out of the bathroom, but not earth-shattering.

So where is the true “power” of the IoT? Where is this all-out technological revolution going to come from? And more importantly, how will it impact businesses, people, and profit?

Let’s see if we can find some answers.

Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 was originally coined by the high-tech government policies of Germany in the early 2000’s. What is it, exactly? Well, today’s Industry 4.0 seeks to make industrial manufacturing smarter, faster, and more efficient. This is accomplished by connecting the various parts, pieces, and machines of manufacturing. Here, we’re talking machines, workflows, and processes using embedded sensors to streamline operations and self-learn.

Sound familiar? Sure does to me…hmm..”Internet of Things,” anyone?

What originally started as genuine German engineering prowess, the global marketplace is catching up. Industrial manufacturing behemoth General Electric is jumping on the bandwagon too.  Where the Germans call for more integrated machines, GE is calling for smarter factories on the whole. Factories that can self-learn, provide predictive analytics, and are powered by the Industrial Internet.

Industrial Internet, you ask? This is GE’s handy marketing phrase for what the Germans call Industry 4.0. They are virtually one in the same.

Industrial Internet of Things

Start matching dollars to these technology terms and it’s apparent this isn’t some tech fad. GE estimates that the Industrial Internet will add a whopping $10–15 trillion in global GDP. Yes, trillion with a “T”. Moreover, Intel projects over $41 trillion will be spent on infrastructure upgrades to service the Internet of Things.

That’s some serious money we’re talking about.

With smarter factories, manufacturing lines, and facility operations, what’s the outcome? Well, the hope is to achieve a higher return on investment and lower production cost by slashing overall operating costs. The benefit? Lower priced consumer goods.

That sounds all fine and dandy from a business perspective. What about our the direct personal impact of the IoT?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Often used interchangeably with Industry 4.0, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is wholly different. The concept of Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet deal exclusively with the interconnectedness of manufacturing and business operations. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, on the other hand, has a more direct focus on our individual lives.

What do we mean by this? Let’s take a deeper look.

What is the 4th Industrial Revolution?

As Charles Schwab, founder of the Global Economic Forum puts it:

“The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”

Wait. What? The blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres? Did we hear that right?

Yes. We did. And we don’t have to look far to find examples of this blurring of digital and biological lines. Whether we’re talking about wearable/embedded gadgets or gene editing (think, Ginkgo Bioworks), the Fourth Industrial Revolution is closer than you think.

4th Industrial Revolution

Impacts of the 4th Industrial Revolution

The interconnectedness of devices, things, machines, and humans is, of course, the core of the Internet of Things. But it’s the advances in Artificial Intelligence, Biotechnology, Machine Learning, and Robotics that are ushering in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Moreover, this advance in technology is occurring at a faster clip than any other industrial revolution in history.

And the direct human effects of this Fourth Industrial Revolution? To…Be…Determined.

As Professor Schwab puts it:

“In the end, it all comes down to people and values. We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them. In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails.”

Where do the IoT and IIoT go from here?

The advancements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are yet to be seen at full scale. I mean, the likelihood of Ginko Bioworks growing organic iPhones through organism engineering is incredibly remote to date. On the other hand, interconnected facilities, machines, parts, and pieces, tell a different story.

As sensor prices continue to come down, while increasing in their capabilities, the use of physical building infrastructures as a platform for the IIoT is more reality than a pipe dream. We’re not the only ones who think so. Consider the moves made by Microsoft, GE, Cisco, and LG. They’re all investing heavily in the Industrial Internet of Things. Not to mention the fact that 96% of senior business leaders polled by Wired say they plan to use the IoT in the next three years.

Bottom-line, the Internet of Things is here. And while there are aspects that are still more blue-sky thinking than reality, there’s plenty going on in the market right now for businesses to benefit today. How? A good first step is to take a deeper look at the promise and tangible benefits of the IIoT. Smarter buildings, streamline manufacturing, and better logistics can be measured in real dollars and cents.  Do you want more bang for the buck? The Industrial Internet of Things is the place to look.