By John Bidgood, CTO Systal.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most headline-grabbing tech trends of the moment. But what is it, really – and what could it mean for your organisation? Is the IoT something you can happily ignore for now, or something you should be racing to implement?
The Internet of Things, very broadly, refers the process of adding internet connectivity to previously unconnected ‘things’ – which could be almost anything. A piece of machinery on a factory floor, a pacemaker, a child’s toy – and of course, the oft-cited ‘smart fridge’ – can all be made part of the IoT.
Of course, the question then becomes ‘why’? And this is the key point; the IoT enables data to be captured from those connected things and transmitted somewhere else for analysis, insights, and ultimately action. That smart fridge transmits data on how well-stocked it is, or the temperature it is reaching, and in turn triggers an alert for a new shopping list, or testing and maintenance.
In short, the IoT enables the capture of previously untapped information, which in turn generates new business intelligence and unlocks new business insights. IoT-captured information turns into tangible actions and, in theory, enables the organisation in question to drive anything from process efficiencies to new product innovation.
Additionally, in many IoT settings, that data communication path goes in both directions. In these cases, not only does the connected device transmit information out; it also receives instructions back. And this, of course, opens up all kinds of possibilities for automation, whereby machines on a factory floor automatically shut down or speed up when certain parameters such as temperature or number of revolutions are met. Or a patient’s insulin pump automatically delivers a new dose when the blood sugar levels it is monitoring reach a particular level.
As such, there are two key potential benefits that you should bear in mind when considering whether the IoT could have a possible positive impact on your organisation: data-driven insights, and automation. Could your organisation make use of either, or both?
Of course, in almost every sector and in organisations of almost all sizes, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. There will always be business areas that we don’t yet have adequate visibility into, business actions or choices that we suspect are not as comprehensively informed as they could be, manual or cumbersome business processes that could be automated and streamlined. Introducing connected sensors and devices, and therefore creating the beginnings of an IoT infrastructure, can be truly transformative.
It is important to remember that investing in the IoT does not need to be expensive, or even particularly complicated. There is a huge range of applications that you could use to trial an IoT strategy, little more than a few connected sensors measuring characteristics like temperature or location. Transmit that data back to a centralised analytics engine, and you are already well on your way.
However, there are big differences between IoT deployments on a whim, which do little to drive business improvement and may even introduce additional complexities in terms of IT management and security, and those which truly have a positive business impact. How to be on the right side of that equation, and ensure your business truly thrives with the IoT, will be the subject of our next blog.