Internet of things

You may have heard the term ‘internet of things’ (IoT) bandied about recently, but what exactly is it?

IoT is the name given to interconnected devices that can communicate with each other via the internet, through the sending and receiving of data. The IoT is rapidly changing the world in which we live, albeit somewhat behind the scenes. It affects how we work, communicate, drive, make plans, shop and even how our homes are run.

The IoT works through sensors embedded in various objects that transmit signals to an online platform. Sensors are in almost everything. Location sensors in your smartphone, car, tablet or watch mean someone can locate you with ease and this generates valuable data about how things work and work together. These sensors are taking information from the world and uploading it to the internet, possibly without us noticing or without our permission. For example, after visiting a website, adverts for that same website suddenly pop up on your Facebook news feed. And when you arrive in a new location your smartphone preferences are automatically updated. That’s the IoT.

Although we are aware of this with smartphones and laptops, an increasing number of everyday devices can connect to the internet, such as air conditioning, lighting and even fridges. It is estimated that by 2020 50 billion objects will be connected to the internet. With a global population of 7.6 billion that equates to 6.6 objects connected to the internet per person. 328 million new devices are being connected each month, so in the time you’ve taken to read this paragraph, an estimated 4,000 new devices will have been connected to the internet.

A common complaint is that we are now inundated with so much data that we don’t know what to do with it or what is important. IoT allows companies to capture data to learn more about customer’s behaviours and model services to fit their needs. Real time data collection takes the guesswork away and allows businesses to tailor their services to deliver customers something of real value.

As an example, the car industry increasingly exploits IoT to their advantage. In many new vehicles, cars can be connected to the manufacturer’s server. Every time the car is turned on, an alert is sent to the server which can perform an analysis of the data and send text alerts to the driver if something is wrong with the engine. This can detail how serious the fault is, the closest dealer to get it fixed, directions to get there, a discount voucher for the service, and an indication of whether the service is under warranty or not.

An additional advantage to the manufacturer is that they can quickly identify any trends with faults. IoT allows them to easily identify cars made at the same factory, or with common parts, and send warnings to drivers of other vehicles that may be affected, much like Subaru and Mazda did last year. This leads to streamlined inventory management for the dealer, a better and safer car, and means the driver can get back on the road faster.

It is clear that IoT will impact all industries, and businesses need to be aware of it to ensure they aren’t left behind.

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