A look at the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and how it’s changing workplaces, products and companies
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept that has experienced enormous growth in recent years. The numbers vary but experts have predicted that by 2020, there will be 25 billion connected things and over 2.5 billion connected people on social networks. This new reality of connectedness poses a number of considerations for businesses, while also promising huge potential for innovation. Continuing our 2016 Outlook series, we look into the future of IoT, how it will impact the workplace and the importance of security in this new era.
The future of IoT
With billions of people using billions of devices, the IoT first and foremost represents a significant opportunity. Publications and experts have predicted that IoT will be a $7 trillion industry by 2020. A lot of the discussion around IoT has focused on what it means for the consumer: IoT-enabled smart watches, smart fridges, TVs, ovens, running shoes and more. The advances of IoT into these products has been a talking point because it has the potential to completely change the modern home. However for many the future of IoT is in the office and we’ll see real changes in office productivity, efficiency and inventory management.
The IoT-enabled workplace
The adoption of IoT technologies has exciting possibilities in the workplace. In broad terms, IoT means a device that sits on the network and monitors/controls something, usually not something that you interact with constantly. What this looks like in an IoT enabled workplace includes smarter buildings, better infrastructure, improved inventory management and increased productivity. An IoT office could have lights and heating that turn on and off as staff arrive and leave each day. It could mean increased productivity by alerting when devices like printers are empty, alerting staff when a machine isn’t working properly or automating machinery in industrial settings on the factory floor. The introduction of IoT capabilities mean there is also the prospect of improved tracking of supplies and products to customers – overhauling inventory management. From a resourcing perspective, the spread of IoT devices means that a number of processes will be automated, freeing up time for staff to focus on new projects and being innovators.
Using IoT to transform your business offering
While IoT promises to transform the operational side of many workplaces, it’s the potential to utilise IoT technology in a business’ own products that offers exciting possibilities. Incorporating IoT into product and marketing opportunities could uncover business intelligence and sales opportunities. Netflix is an example of an innovative use of IoT – they’ve been working on a service called ‘Netflix Switch’, which will give Netflix subscribers the ability to control their Netflix account, control their lights and order food: encouraging subscribers to become high-frequency users of Netflix as a product and further embedding it as a part of everyday life. For bricks and mortar retailers, there’s the possibility of using a product like Shopperception and tracking buyer behaviour. Shopperception uses sensors and algorithms to track people, monitor their in-store habits and deliver real-time, relevant messaging and advertising. This means IoT can provide actionable insights, showing what shoppers actually do in-store, what they respond to and help maximise sales.
Managing your network
The introduction of IoT devices into the workplace will also place additional demands on company networks across security policies, management and firewalls. It poses a conundrum for many Enterprise networks which aren’t designed for IoT. For many Enterprise organisations, it’s difficult to make changes to their network in an Agile, ad-hoc fashion. IoT is often positioned as a ‘disruptive’ technology and it has real potential to disrupt security practices for organisations. It’s common for people to introduce IoT devices into a workplace or business with the expectation that they’ll be available on the company network and it will have no implications or interaction with anything else on the network. The introduction of these IoT devices onto a network can create a disjointed, messy network with numerous smart devices vulnerable to attack. It means a strategy is needed to prioritise access for mission-critical projects and applications first and foremost. The arrival of IoT into the workplace is an incremental shift and it doesn’t have a launch date. Instead it becomes a part of a company’s infrastructure slowly, incrementally and ideally, with a strategic plan behind it.
The IoT represents billions of dollars of opportunity for companies across the spectrum. It brings with it the potential to drastically overhaul business processes, identify inefficiencies and automate processes – freeing up staff to focus on new projects. With this opportunity, comes the need to plan and carefully think about what IoT means for security, bandwidth and access. The IoT is driving a new era of “hyper-connectivity” bringing opportunity and the capability to deliver new applications and projects. We’re at that point in the IoT lifecycle where the most exciting developments are yet to come.
Is your organisation prepared for the IoT?