The Internet of Things, connecting us to our "Things" like never before
The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is already beginning to revolutionise mobile communications in ways which are yet to be fully explored and can only be imagined. When considering the concept of using the internet to connect devices (“things” – i.e. the Internet of “Things”) it very quickly becomes apparent that this is not only a powerful concept but potentially an exciting opportunity for businesses.
There are many examples of the IoT in action in our daily lives today – mobile banking and payment systems; programming the Sky box via a Smartphone or using one of the many mobile apps to “talk” (literally or by text) to someone on the other side of the World without resorting to expensive telephone calls. The possibilities appear to be endless.
But what possibilities does the use of IoT technology provide for businesses in the 21st Century?
There are already many examples of businesses using the technology to communicate with or provide information to, their customers, which many people already use without necessarily considering what makes it possible (many public transport systems around the World, for example, are able to tell their customers when the next service will arrive and where it is going). Some businesses use the technology to provide their customers with service support – some cars constantly “talk” to the manufacturer ensuring not only continuous service delivery but also providing a means of information delivery (route planning or emergency services, for example).
But these applications only scratch the surface. The potential uses within businesses to make business more effective and efficient are, potentially, limitless.
IoT technology can be widely used in hospitals, for example, whether it be for the efficient storage and movement of blood, and donor organs, or, where an emergency admission is required and bed availability is an issue. Historically, cumbersome broadly “manual” systems were relied on, but now linked devices across large organisations (sensor tagged available beds) and networks (organ availability matched to patient needs at the point of need – the patient) can provide a more efficient service.
So how might the IoT be used to improve business?
Paradoxically the possibilities are limited by the ability of the human mind to consider the application and use of the technology in any given situation, or not. So application within individual businesses will depend on the ability of those businesses to visualise their own future. There is no rule book or list of suggested solutions or applications because every circumstance is different but we are in that place where if we think to ourselves “wouldn’t it be great if….” then whatever it is we are thinking “would be great” might just become a reality.
Naturally, there are risks to be considered and managed. The more “things” are connected, the higher the risk for a security breach. As a result there are concerns that as more devices get connected, manufacturers will create their own operating environments where devices only operate within a set “group” which will limit effectiveness because of compatibility issues. A better solution is to utilise existing mobile security systems, such as Blue Coat, Kaspersky and AirWatch or develop bespoke solutions, that ensure the data security expected today is delivered, seamlessly, at the point of operation. This will help to ensure benefits and investment returns are maximised.
There are, of course, some more than slightly sinister implications to a World where apparently inanimate objects “talk” to one another recording and passing data and, recording locations, movements and habits. Google’s latest plan, for example is to push its Android operating system on to smart watches, smart cars, smart thermostats and potentially, smart everything. In the near future, Google could be the middleman standing between users and their fridges, users and their cars, users and their rubbish bins, allowing those interested (business owners, government, regulators etc.) to collect unlimited data in bulk and via a single window.
According to some Tech pioneers in the US the “smartification” of everything, and the resultant gathering of data could lead to “algorithmic regulation” and the death of politics as a result! A rather Orwellian view of the future but certainly a vision which clearly indicates the power and opportunity provided by the concept of the Internet of Everything. Enlightened businesses could do worse than “get with the program” and investigate how this Brave New World can serve, rather than control, their business.
However, this is the World in which we live and those who ignore the possibilities of the technology available will get left behind.
"The Internet of Things is an ever developing beast for us as app developers. Ideas of what third-party devices can or should be integrated into apps is constantly growing. We have a range of projects that are currently allowing us to integrate with a growing number of 'things' which is very exciting, this is just the beginning and I'm fully expecting more and more projects to require this integration as a standard feature" - Graham, Project Manager at B60