The Internet of Things will impact factory floors, asset tracking, marketing, networking, and more.
According to Gartner, 5.5 million new things will get connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) every day during 2016. The market-research firm also predicts that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30% from 2015.
Many of the items currently associated with IoT -- things like connected thermostats, fitness trackers, connected cars and automated home appliances -- are primarily for consumers. However, IoT technology could have an even bigger impact on enterprises than on individuals. In fact, that same Gartner forecast says that businesses will spend $868 billion on IoT endpoints this year, compared to $546 billion spent by consumers.
For enterprise IT departments, IoT will offer a number of challenges. They will need to deploy and maintain the sensors and IoT gateways that will make up the Internet of Things. They will need to develop and support a variety of new IoT applications for smart manufacturing, asset tracking, smart offices, and other purposes. IT teams also will have to make sure they have the necessary networks and systems to handle the huge increase in data, as well as the tools to process and secure all that information.
Because IoT is still in its infancy, most organizations are still trying to figure out how it will affect them. IoT has gained mainstream awareness, yet organizations are still struggling with how to deal with the complexities of the vendor ecosystem in terms of developing and deploying connected products and services," Carrie MacGillivray, IDC program VP of IoT and mobile, said in a report last fall.
In this slideshow, we'll examine nine ways that the Internet of Things will change enterprise technology.
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IoT is expected to make such a big impact on manufacturing processes that many vendors and industry watchers are likening it to another industrial revolution. A 2015 survey found that 40% of manufacturers believe that smart manufacturing technology is ready for use and now is the right time to invest. The new technology will allow companies to have visibility into every step of the manufacturing process and enable them to track each individual item as it is produced. In addition, automated systems will be able to tailor production to meet demand and to order supplies in real time as they are needed.
But before smart manufacturing technology can hit the factory floor, enterprises will need to update their other systems to track and analyze the new data.
Another key enterprise application of IoT technology will be asset tracking. Startups and established companies alike are offering sensors for tracking just about anything a company could own -- fleet vehicles, retail products, IT systems, industrial equipment, supplies and more. Of course, companies will then also need cloud-based systems to aggregate and report on the data that comes in. Vendors like BlackBerry are rolling out end-to-end IoT asset-tracking products in hopes of taking a leading role in this new market.
Advertising and marketing
For marketers, IoT sensors embedded in the products that they sell could supply a wealth of data about how their products are used. For example, a smart blender could provide information about what time of day it is used, how frequently it runs, how long it is on, and when it breaks down. They can then use that information to improve customer service, enhance their products, and create more effective advertising.
In addition, some retailers are experimenting with in-store beacons, like those from Estimote, that allow them to track customer movement in stores and push advertising and other content to smartphone users.
A lot of IoT talk has focused on smart homes, but for enterprises, IoT also brings up the possibility of smart offices. Companies like Enlightened offer sensors that can track when people are in certain parts of buildings. That information can be used to control lighting and temperature controls, or it could be sent to enterprise analytics systems to help companies make decisions about how much square footage they need, what size conference rooms get used the most and other real-estate issues. Similar technology is also helping retailers learn more about how customers and staff interact in stores.
For consumers, one of the most exciting possibilities of the Internet of Things is connected and even self-driving cars, like the Google Self-Driving Car Project. Eventually, autonomous vehicles like these could become a major part of enterprise fleets and play a much larger role in transporting goods from one place to another.
But long before fully autonomous vehicles become commonplace, enterprises will be connecting their fleets of vehicles to the Internet in order to better track the supply and delivery of goods. Logistics companies, delivery services, trucking companies, retailers, wholesalers, distributers, utilities and many other kinds of enterprises are beginning to collect and track fleet data, analyzing it for ways to make their operations more economical and efficient.
Smart electricity use
For many organizations, particularly manufacturers and companies with large data centers, electricity is a major expense. Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise then, that one 2015 report found that "the lowly energy meter is becoming a leading device in the transition to the Internet of Things." It estimates that there were 454 million smart meters installed in 2015 and that there will be twice as many in use by 2020.
In addition to smart meters, businesses are employing a variety of other sensors designed to help them use energy more efficiently. For example, in data centers, temperature sensors can allow them to direct air conditioning towards the areas where it is needed or to distribute virtualized workloads to physical servers dispersed throughout a facility in or order to reduce or eliminate the need for cooling.
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As enterprises adopt more IoT applications, they will have large quantities of sensors and IoT gateway devices connected to their networks, and the amount of data flowing through corporate networks will increase dramatically. And that means organizations will need to beef up their networking hardware and available bandwidth. For many enterprises, widespread adoption of IoT will require the purchase of additional networking equipment and perhaps the hiring of additional network administrators in order to manage and maintain the new equipment.
More data and analytics
Not only will companies need to enhance their IT networks in order to deal with the deluge of IoT data, they'll also need to upgrade their storage systems and improve their big-data analytics capabilities. For many, this will mean investing in next-generation analytics solutions that feature cognitive computing or machine learning capabilities.
In a blog post, Dan Bieler, principal analyst at Forrester, writes, "The real value of IoT solutions will not come from the hardware components of connected assets, but from the data they generate and consume. In order to manage and make sense of the data that connected assets generate, cognitive systems and machine learning will play a fundamental role for the evolution of IoT."
As many analysts have noted, security remains the big question mark for IoT deployments. Organizations are still figuring out how to secure all the devices, sensors and data that will make up the Internet of Things. Based on analyst estimates of the number of connect things and the size of the IoT security market, Dark Reading estimates that it will cost about $1 per thing to secure the Internet of Things. As organizations look to deploy thousands, or even millions, of IoT devices and sensors, those security costs could ramp up quickly. But the potential cost to companies that fail to secure their IoT deployments could be even greater.
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