You know those questions you really want to ask but you don't… because you think you're the only one who doesn't know?
For many people, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a lot like that. On one hand, it sounds kind of obvious. As in, “Yeah, of course I know what the internet is.” On the other… if it’s really more than just another reference to the internet we’re all familiar with, then what exactly is it?
Understanding the Internet of Things
You’ve probably seen the term “IoT” thrown around ad nauseam in the tech literature. It’s a frequent guest in business lit, too. But if you're not a tech insider - if, for example, you’re a business owner, executive, or manager – then you might recognize the term and still not be completely sure what it means.
That’s because the Internet of Things isn’t a physical object (or even a network like the internet) but more of a concept. And as such, it can be difficult to grasp.
The good news is that the IoT concept itself is rather simple.
In those very simple terms, the IoT is connecting objects to the internet. Or, more importantly, connecting the data collected by an object through the internet.
For more detail, Business Insider offers an excellent overview and definition of the IoT here.
How the Internet of Things is Revolutionizing Products
So what’s the big deal? The futurists in the press keep hailing the IoT as a game-changer. But if it isn’t a new product or even a network, where’s the revolution in that?
The answer lies in what the IoT does, not what it actually is. The Internet of Things is considered revolutionary because more and more objects are connecting data that's available to share. And that data is changing, well, everything.
Who in the '90s would’ve envisioned a refrigerator storing an inventory of its contents, then using it to create a shopping list on an owner's cell phone? Or a wristband that collects biometric health data such as activity, heart rate, and sleep?
That sort of product transformation is what the IoT is all about. It’s not really about the internet at all. It's about new things being connected to it. And as each new example comes to light, more innovative businesses are seeing opportunities in connecting objects – and their data – to the internet.
Your job is to see those opportunities in your products.
My job at Ascendle is to help you turn those opportunities into viable software products which allow you to capitalize on those ideas. Obviously, getting computers and physical objects to speak and share their data requires software.
So how big is the opportunity?
Gartner predicts 21 billion products will be connected by 2020.
What kind of software will you need? Here are a few ideas:
Software apps can allow users to monitor the activity or status of a product. Just about anything with an on/off switch could be monitored this way. One way to achieve this is for the object to send a wireless signal, which is then stored in the cloud and viewed remotely via a software app. The signal could range from simple status designations to detailed activity reports.
For example, think of a trucking app that tracks locations and updates logistical info like ETA. Or manufacturing machinery that lets managers review outputs in real time. Or a medical device that shares its results directly into healthcare systems without data entry.
Software apps can do more than just monitor products connected through the Internet of Things. You can design solutions to actively control those products remotely.
Home automation systems are a recent example of this. Artificial intelligence (AI) and remote controlled vehicles, including drones, is another. Productivity is poised to explode with all the possible applications for offices, factories, retail locations, and more.
Collect and Present Data
One of the fundamental advantages of the IoT is the ability to collect and present data. Electronics built into an object collect the relevant performance data to transmit via the internet. Software applications then capture this data and present it to users in convenient ways. Web apps and mobile apps are two of the most common tools for interacting with IoT data.
A Fitbit is a perfect example of this. Here you have an ordinary object – a wristband – that’s been turned into an IoT device. The Fitbit collects data, transmits it to a database, and then displays those results through a variety of software applications.
Offer New Features and Functions
Custom software apps can add new functionality to existing products that make them both more useful and more versatile. With the Internet of Things, this is doubly true. When you connect any item – no matter how unlikely – to the internet, you can find new ways to differentiate and add value to your product.
The toy market was one of the IoT’s early adopters. Buy a toy, play with it. Then go online and play some more. WebKinz was famous for that model – their little stuffed animals were cute, but the real experience was online. Now you can find software apps throughout the toy industry – including everything from LEGO to action figures to boardgames.
Taking Advantage of the Internet of Things
Although some internet-connected objects have been available for years, the Internet of Things is still in its infancy. There are so many opportunities for you to be a “trendsetter” on the IoT that it really boggles the mind.
If you’re not sure how your products could take advantage of the IoT, that’s okay. Ascendle is here to help. We’ll work with you to discover ways to connect your products – and create the software that drives it home to benefit your bottom line.
Want to know more about jumping on the IoT? Contact us today. Don’t let your competitors be the ones to show you how.