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Connecting the unconnected: the internet of things

Business · 7 min read

Connecting the unconnected

From customer service to supply chain logistics, the Internet of Things as part of the Internet of Everything matters to both small businesses and their customers.

The Internet of Things is fast becoming the most important development of the 21st century. In its simplest form, IoT enables objects, sometimes called ‘dark assets’, to connect to the internet. ‘Connecting the Unconnected' is the buzzphrase.

What is meant by objects? Well, practically anything. We have all become comfortable with the idea of kettles that can be switched on via your smartphone app as you approach your home after a long day. Or the home thermostat that can be fired up from work at the first sign of a chill wind.

"So far, less than one percent of all physical objects that could be connected to the Internet are currently connected."

DHL & Cisco. Internet of Things in Logistics

But what about the sneakers that tell you how many steps you’ve run, the length of your stride or even the pressure you're exerting with each footstep? What about the street lights that switch themselves on as a vehicle approaches in the middle of the night and reports back to the city planners to help them improve traffic flow?

The idea of machines talking to machines is only just gaining traction. But it is picking up speed; of the 1.5 trillion objects on the planet that could be connected via the internet only around 1% or 15 billion actually are. The interesting fact is that by 2020, around 50 billion devices will be part of the IoT – and only 17% of those will be computers or smartphones. The rest will be ‘operational technology’ – objects that can send, receive, process and store data.

"IoT-enabled biomedical device miniaturization can give doctors and scientists greater insights into disease."

DHL & Cisco. Internet of Things in Logistics

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The Internet of Things is a sub-set of what’s called the ‘Internet of Everything’. Whereas IoT is fundamentally about machines talking to machines (or M2M in geek parlance), IoE also includes machines talking to people (M2P) and people talking to people (P2P). This is the ‘big picture’ for tomorrow that’s starting to take shape today. Imagine wearing a gadget that monitors a range of your biometrics, constantly feeding those results to other machines that analyze your wellbeing. Earlier detection of cancers, signs of mental stress, risk of stroke or Alzheimer’s disease? All possible.

What about entering a store where the staff immediately address you by name, know your preferences and tastes and can steer you towards new products designed around you?

Cisco estimates that the Internet of Everything has a ‘Value at Stake’ (read potential net profit) of around US$19trn over the next decade. This isn’t some science-fiction future. It’s happening now – and smart businesses aren’t just considering the potential – they’re bringing it to life. Increasing revenue from innovation, improving asset utilization, boosting employee productivity, streamlining logistics or reinventing the customer experience, the Internet of Everything is set to transform small businesses and multi-nationals in the years ahead. Potentially, this is the greatest quantum leap in commerce since the industrial revolution. Will you be ready to take ‘Everything’ on board?

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