What is the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things, or IoT, is simply informational technology moving beyond the traditional forms we are used to. Instead of the PCs, servers, tablets, and mobile devices we are familiar with today, connected devices are going to be everywhere. In 2015, we passed an amazing milestone in technology: Our planet now has more connected devices than people. Think about that for a second. More devices sending information than there are people.
Cisco estimates by the year 2025 there will be 100 billion connected devices. That means a tenfold increase in the number of connected devices in the next 10 years.
What does IoT mean
The Internet of Things simply means these new devices will not be connected in the same way as our current devices. These newly connected devices will affect everything from our medical care to the toys we buy for our kids. On the manufacturing floor, operational technology will connect to our networks. Manufacturing equipment will be able to notify us when maintenance is required, avoiding scheduled downtime windows that automatically halt production today. It means more and more automation. Instead of those same factories requiring manual adjustments to the line, sensors and programmable devices will do the work. It means faster innovation and customization. Instead of requiring months of product testing and design, changes can be done on the fly.
Let me give you an example. I was at a recent Cisco conference and heard a presentation by Wendy Bahr, senior vice president of Cisco’s Global Partner Organization. Instead of giving us facts and figures regarding IoT, she said “predicting the growth of the Internet of Things is like predicting the growth of plastics in the ‘40s and ‘50s.”
Wendy then told us about her car—she drives a Tesla. (If you haven’t heard of Tesla, it is an all electric, high performance luxury car. More importantly, it is one of the best examples of where the Internet of Things is taking us.) Instead of going to a car lot, Wendy went to a Tesla store. She didn’t look through a small selection of different models in some dealer’s limited inventory, hoping to find a car meeting most of her wish list of features. She sat at a computer kiosk picking out exterior and interior colors, fabrics, and wood grains for her car. She was able to tailor every customizable aspect of her new vehicle. At the end of the process, Wendy choose where she wanted to pick her car up. Instead of being limited to a short list of dealership locations, she used Google Maps. (Tesla will deliver anywhere in the world.)
Customized automobiles have always been available from high-end automakers for those buyers with deep pockets and the patience to wait for a specially-made build. Instead of months of custom work in a factory, though, Wendy’s order took a matter of weeks because of the automation in Tesla’s plant. If that’s where the story ended, it would be plenty impressive—and far more technologically-demanding than the most modern auto-production systems of just a few years ago.
But even more amazing is Tesla’s “connected” car. Wendy’s purchase is constantly evolving. You see, much like your mobile phone or favorite tablet app, Wendy’s car gets updates all the time. In fact, the first Tuesday of each month Tesla sends a patch to her car. New features appear. Before the last patch, her car had a review camera that gave a simple view of where she is driving in reverse. After the patch, the view added a visual guide showing where she will go if she continues in reverse.
This new connected world improves our experience with products beyond the sale. It allows manufacturers to speed-deliver, and it allows consumers to customize choices far beyond “small, medium, or large.”
As impressive as it is, however, if the best technology on the planet doesn’t drive a business outcome, it’s worthless.