It can take a while for the full potential of technology to be realized. Just take the original internet, for example. The first websites launched way back in 1995. Yet, it took more than ten years for social media, wikis, and blogs to take off. The same, arguably, applies to the Internet of Things. We’ve had the raw technology to make it work for some time now. But we’re still waiting for it to have a significant impact on our business and our lives. Up until this point, the primary focus of industry has been on the consumer side of things. After all, this is where all the high-profile tech companies have focused their efforts in recent years. But there’s reason to believe that this isn’t actually the best market for the IoT. It turns out that the IoT has far more potential in the B2B setting. There are applications in process efficiency and supply chain integration.
What we’re seeing, therefore, is something of an awakening. Businesses finally realize that the real potential of the IoT doesn’t lie exclusively with consumers. And they’re beginning to see that it could prove a huge boon to how they interact with each other. Companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, are all already in on the action. They’re already looking for ways to expand into new B2B applications. And there are also a host of smaller startups, already offering end-to-end solutions for business. According www.techradar.com, there are a whole bunch of hot IoT companies. This means that the IoT ecosystem is finally taking shape.
The Consumer IoT
Consumers can be split into two main groups. There are those who’ll jump on any new technology that comes to market which promises to make their lives better. And there are those who are naturally skeptical and don’t see the point of new tech until it’s proven its worth. Right now, the IoT consumer market is utterly dependent on early adopters. Not everybody wants to spend thousands of dollars on fridges that tell them that they need to go to the shop and buy more milk. But that, according to some on the inside, is all about to change.
The trick here, according to SkyBell, is to offer consumers something they’ll get real value out of. Right now, the company argues, the consumer IoT market is lacking in products that actually make a difference in customer’s lives. So it came up with an idea. Their idea was to connect doorbells to people’s smartphones. When the doorbell rings, it immediately connects to an app on the homeowner’s smartphone. The app then displays an image of the person standing at the door. Thus, it allows people to get selective to whom they answer the door without having to either open it or use a peephole.
Another way the IoT might make a significant impact on consumers is in the area of health. At present, the majority of health-related IoT applications are directed at fitness enthusiasts. Health sensors are mainly used among triathletes and marathon runners. But that should all change over the next few years as prices come down, and the tech gets more advanced. Soon, we could see sensors embedded in people’s houses to monitor their health in real-time. These sensors would then report back to health care professionals who could interpret the data. If for instance, a heart attack was imminent, they could be on the scene to deliver first aid as it happens. Thus, the IoT is a boon for customer service.
B2B And The IoT
The industrial IoT is currently seeing the most exciting developments. Adoption is relatively widespread. And companies are finding novel ways to use the technology to communicate with each other.
One of the coolest things going on right now is the integration of the cloud with the IoT. Sites like http://macrofab.com explain how firms can now fully outsource manufacturing to third parties. Startups can collaborate, using the industrial internet, and go from prototyping to customer fulfillment. As a result, they can concentrate on the things they’re actually good at, like design and marketing.
The IoT is also being used in the factories themselves. IoT technologies are being used to get robots on the factory floor talking and monitor equipment. Machines that can talk to each other can synchronize their work for additional efficiency. And managers who can monitor their equipment can design preventive maintenance schedules.
Because of the complexity of manufacturing cars, one of the first places the IoT is likely to show up is in car plants. Right now, cars are going super high-tech. With the advent of driverless cars, many are using the same technology that is employed in the IoT. Simon Pearce, an entrepreneur, agrees that the automotive industry is one of the most exciting early adopters of the technology. He believes that IoT use will be far more widespread in the sector in the future. He also sees a future for the IoT in the business office environment. Right now companies spend a fortune hiring ancillary services to refill coffee machines and fix HVAC systems. In the future, better monitoring is likely to reduce those costs and get office costs down.
Pearce also makes some bold predictions about the near term future. He sees the IoT moving out of its industrial niche over the next five to seven years or so. He thinks it won’t be long before it’s at the center of everything industries from banking to retail do. And he predicts it will be a kind of opt-in system, where companies choose to take part.
IoT In The Future
Right now, the IoT is still languishing. It’s a general technology, like electricity and Internet 1.0. But it desperately needs to be made more user-friendly before it gains widespread adoption. According to the research firm, eMarketer, the IoT requires significant investment to realize its potential.
There also needs to be a constructive conversation around the privacy of the platform. The idea of billions of sensors all over our homes, workplaces and public spaces raises serious privacy questions. And these will need to be addressed by technologists involved going forward.