Is This the Year the IoT Joins the Mainstream?

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
Internet of things

Thanks to leaps in processing power, advances in AI and machine learning, robust clouds and pervasive mobility, the IoT is moving into the business mainstream.

The university uses the same technology to send out messages at home football games and other sporting events—and it even hold a scavenger hunt. In addition, the school pushes out promotions and coupons for concessions stands, retail shops and more. Finally, fans can buy tickets online and view live stats, review player bios and watch videos directly through the app. They can also engage other fans through a social media function.

The school relies on Gimball and YinzCam beacon systems, along with Cisco networking technology and AT&T WiFi to support the IoT infrastructure. It also uses analytics from YinzCam and Gimball—based on WiFi and beacon data—to better understand fan behavior and to develop better marketing programs.

"People are connected to their phones 24/7, and they expect instant and contextual information, along with a high level of personalization," Fraser points out. "In order to stay relevant and competitive—and attract discretionary dollars and attention—we have to engage our fans at the highest level."

The IoT Takes Shape in Business and Industry

Accenture's McNeil explains that it's important for business and IT executives to distinguish between the consumer Internet of things and the industrial IoT. The former is taking off faster and offers organizations opportunities for new and revamped connected products and services, while the latter involves sensors and other connectivity typically built into machines or across various systems.

This may translate into anything from very advanced machine diagnostics and remote monitoring features to a connected supply chain that provides total visibility into raw materials, manufacturing and distribution. It also may encompass smart utility and transportation grids and next-generation health care devices that monitor patients and deliver constant feedback to their health care providers.

McNeil says that the common denominator within the Internet of things and the path to IoT business ideas is a focus on the so-called "Three Cs": connect, compute and communicate. He believes that business and IT leaders must begin to experiment with IoT technologies, pilot and test the systems, and begin developing proof of concept. During this process—which may involve cross-departmental teams and input from data scientists and others—it's critical to focus on standards, privacy and security.

"The IoT represents an ecosystem with a lot of different vendors, tools, products and partners working together," he notes. In some cases, vendors are now bundling technologies and offering IoT-as-a-Service. "So it's critical to keep an eye on how the space is evolving."

According to EY's Brody, today's Internet of things is different from its predecessor from just a couple of years ago. Capabilities, features and opportunities are advancing rapidly as technologies converge and cloud capacity expands. He believes it's critical to focus on interoperability and extracting maximum value from data.

For enterprise leaders, there's a growing need to think about how to make products, machines and workflows better and add value to products and services. "It's important to make things simpler and better," Brody says. In many cases, this means using AI and machine learning to boost automation. "The goal is often intelligent systems with no user interface," he adds.

Those involved with IoT implementations should be asking a number of key questions. Brody recommends these:

What are the drivers of the business?

How can we achieve better asset utilization?

How can we improve employee productivity?

Is it possible to reduce cycle times?

How can we create new or better products?

Can we reinvent the way people use our products or services?

In the end, all roads lead to digital disruption on a scale that organizations have never faced before. "Over the next decade, we will see entire industries, from automobiles to consumer goods, undergo massive changes as a result of the Internet of things," Brody concludes. "In order to compete effectively, businesses must begin to build a strategic plan for the IoT."

This article was originally published on 2016-02-18
Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).
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