My smartwatch woke me up at 7 a.m. and informed me I’d had a decent night’s sleep. As soon as I was out of bed, it proceeded to count how many steps I took. Waze redirected me onto an alternate route to the office to avoid a pileup on the parkway, and right now, my robot vacuum has undocked itself and is spinning around my living room, sucking up dog hair and dust.
Welcome to the Internet of Things, or the IoT, as it’s abbreviated. It’s been proliferating for over a decade, and most of us have a general understanding of it as “Things that connect to the Internet that aren’t my computer.” While that is accurate, it seems a bit of an understatement when you consider we are at a point in technological development where virtually anything can be connected to the Internet. From pill bottles that remind you it’s time to take your vitamins to yoga mats that take you through your morning sequence of poses and provide you with real-time “adjustments.”
So, what are we really talking about when we talk about the Internet of Things? We’re actually talking about data. Every “thing” that connects to the Internet does so for the purpose of collecting and exchanging data with other “things.” To enable data collection, all the “things” (and it’s believed that by the end of this year, there will be more than 50 billion of them) are embedded with sensors, software, and electronics.1 Whereas the Internet was initially a means to transfer data packets between IP addresses, it’s become a repository for data collected by billions of “things” in which such data collection capabilities have been embedded.
Thanks to all that data, not only can we vacuum the living room while working in the office, but our jobs become easier, and our customers become happier. For example, smart speaker-enabled workplace solutions allow us to order lunch without so much as tapping on a key, let alone picking up a phone. Got customers who are skittish about being seen in your lobby by your other customers? Smart reception solutions can be configured to welcome your visitors privately—without the need for even a live receptionist. Unexpectedly find yourself in need of visual aids during that customer pitch meeting? If you’ve got smart print solutions, you’ve got no problem.
But the IoT’s ability to complete discrete tasks isn’t the end of the story. “A truly useful IoT device will also help the user collect data,” points out Exela’s CEO, Ron Cogburn in Forbes. That data can be analyzed to detect patterns and trends and anticipate needs. It can be used for accounting purposes. It can be used to make decisions about fixed assets. Transforming your data into assets requires planning, but once you get started, the possibilities are endless.
- Science Direct.