What is the potential impact of IoT?

Rob Borley
on 24 June 2015

The Internet of Things (IoT) has, we are told, the potential to revolutionise business and the lives of consumers. Where smartphones and tablets have allowed people to access data any place, any time, the IoT promises to allow data to be collected whenever and wherever required.

The Media is currently obsessed with consumer-oriented devices like the Apple Watch which collect all manner of health and proximity data, but it is in enterprise computing that the most benefits of IoT will be realised. A recent IDC report estimates IoT spending will reach $1.7 trillion over the next five years, most of which will be in enterprise applications;

“While wearable devices are the consumer face of the Internet of Things, and where recognition of IoT appears to begin, the real opportunity remains in the enterprise and public sector markets,” Vernon Turner, senior vice president and research fellow (IoT), at IDC said in a statement accompanying the report.

Improved data gathering potential

The IoT will allow businesses to place inexpensive sensors virtually anywhere in the world where there is some form of connectivity – wired Ethernet, WiFi, cellular or satellite. These sensors will then provide access to almost unlimited amounts of data for analysis and reporting purposes.

Advanced sensors will also allow for the collection of additional data, monitoring multiple environmental factors simultaneously for instance and supplementing the “headline” information reported by core systems. Additionally cheap sensors can be installed in even the most inhospitable or hazardous conditions, reducing the need for manual checks to be performed by employees.

Improved data accuracy

Data collected by IoT sensors has two major benefits. Firstly removing humans from data collection routines raises the quality of data received. Secondly, data is collected and processed in real-time, improving not only the accuracy, but also the relevancy for business operations.

Faster business decision-making

IoT sensors can be used to monitor almost any aspect of business operations, going beyond traditional production line applications and the like. This highly-accurate, real-time data supports better decision-making by ensuring your analysts have the most timely information possible.

For maximum value however, businesses will need to build systems that can collect, collate, analyse and action information automatically. These systems can be delegated a degree of autonomy in adjusting data flow, or carrying out operations without human intervention.

The Big Data factor

The more IoT devices in play, the more data that will be collected. Even the smallest business will quickly find it is trying to store, process and manage Big Data-like volumes of information. This will present significant challenges for those who are unprepared for the challenge.

To cope they will need to develop systems that not only analyse and act on incoming data, but which have the capacity to recognise new patterns and ‘learn’ for themselves how to deal with changing circumstances. This then frees businesses to enjoy the benefits of Big Data without requiring huge amounts of manpower to manage it.

The explosive growth of IoT will have two defining features. First, it will accelerate the uptake of Big Data techniques, bringing the potential for vast datasets to any business using IoT. Secondly IoT will drive the development and deployment of machine learning to help cope with the onslaught of incoming information.

Those businesses that fail to develop intelligent, autonomous data collection and processing routines and applications will also fail to realise the true value of the IoT.


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