The Bright Future of the Internet of Things
In the future, most, if not all, of an organization's products and services will be connected to the Internet. These connections form a key part of the Internet of Everything and its more important counterpart, the Internet of Things. But before I get ahead of myself, let's start with some definitions.
The Internet of Everything is a "back-office" term and vision coined by networking vendor Cisco Systems. The Internet of Everything is a global system of interconnected computer networks, sensors, actuators, and devices all using the Internet protocol that holds so much potential to change people's lives it is often referred to as the Internet's next generation.
Cisco predicts that by the end of 2015, there will be 25 billion devices connected to the Internet, and that by 2020, that number will rise to 50 billion, an average of seven connected devices for each person on Earth. Information will be generated from machine-to-machine (robots, sensors), machine-to-people (wearables, home security), and people-to-people (social networks) connections.
Closely related to the Internet of Everything is the Internet of Things, which includes any natural or man-made object that is embedded with sensors assigned an Internet address and that transfers data coming from the sensors by connecting wirelessly via the Internet to servers located in the cloud. Following are some examples:
- The connected home: Today this includes digital door locks connected to the cloud that can be opened via the Internet, animal collars that enable owners to track their pets regardless of where they roam, and Internet-connected slow cookers, ovens, and refrigerators. Tomorrow, ovens will tell you when your chicken is cooked!
- Connected wearables: Today this includes Google Glass, smart gear, Nike Fuel, and related devices. Tomorrow this will include children's clothing with embedded sensors that record the child's motions and provide alerts to parents concerning a child's location or activities.
- Connected health: Today this includes wearable sensors that indicate the wearer's level of insulin, a connected toothbrush that monitors how often a user brushes her teeth, and pill boxes with sensors to inform patients that they need to take their medicine. Tomorrow this will include wearable health-related monitoring devices that are connected to a health-care organization database. The organization will analyze a member's activities and create individual incentives for each member to stay healthy.
- Connecting merchants with customers: This includes the utilization of Bluetooth low energy "beacons," such as the iBeacon. A beacon is a very small transmitting radio that sends relevant information to a desired location. A person in the proximity of a beacon who has a mobile app that communicates with it will receive messages from that beacon. The new San Francisco 49ers Levi Stadium has beacons located throughout. When a fan who has downloaded the stadium app to his mobile device arrives at the stadium, he automatically receives instructions on how to get to his seat. During games, beacons will send out time-sensitive discounts to attendees on their mobile devices.
The Internet of Things will play a pervasive role in how we conduct business in the future. Some skeptics may argue that the Internet of Things is not ready for prime time. Yet, when Internet technology arrived on the scene in the 1990s, critics pointed to its shortcomings as well. But the benefits were so grand that businesses and government cooperated together to overcome specified shortcomings and bring about a worldwide revolution whose impact we are only beginning to feel. I predict that over the next three to five years, a similar transformation will happen with the Internet of Things. The future looks promising!
Barton Goldenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president and founder of ISM, Inc., a strategic consulting firm that applies CRM/social CRM, big data analytics and insight, knowledge communities, customer experience management, and channel optimization to build successful customer-centric business initiatives. He is a frequent speaker, author of CRM in Real Time, and publisher of The eGuide to Mobile and Social CRM. This column has been adapted from his new book, Social CRM, to be published in the spring.
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