IoT – It’s only Tech
So depending on whose figures you believe, by 2020 there could be 20, 30 or even 50 billion internet-connected devices in existence across the globe. But whichever way you look at it, that’s a lot of billions. And it’s a lot of pressure for anyone tasked with coming up with your organisation’s IoT strategy. But come up with one you must, because the Internet of Things is not going away.
But here’s a thing. As big a phenomenon as it is, and as much as you hear that it’s shaking up your sector, IoT is not an initiative. Not in itself. For me, and coming from a self-confessed techy, I’m well aware of the irony here, IoT should stand first and foremost for “It’s only Tech”.
Your IoT strategy should not start with snapping up the latest and cleverest IoT technologies in your sector, it should start by determining what the technology will do for your business. And that comes down to the insights it provides.
Because it’s all about data. When the term “Big Data” came into use, those who understood and had been working with analytics for years, were quick to point out that it was only data – just more of it. Similarly, the Internet of Things is just technology that gives you even more data – but its power is in the analytics. It’s analytics on steroids.
From understanding buyer behaviours and preferences, to running a streamlined, efficient supply chain, to providing a connected and exceptional experience for customers, to identifying product opportunities and generating demand, to meeting the challenge of born-in-the-cloud new market entrants, the Internet of Things can give you insights that will help you make the right decisions and focus in the areas that will have the most impact on business performance.
But the amount of data you can get from IoT is only the beginning. The sheer speed with which you can get it is unprecedented. You can get information on how customers interact with your products in real time and use the information to instantly modify your offering. For a generation that’s grown up with social media and instant gratification, being able to spot when they’re in the right part of the right store and send them the right offer there and then, isn’t just playing to their “now” mentality, it’s giving them a great experience, seamless with the one in their online world. And in the manufacturing space, there’s now a fourth industrial revolution where operational technology meets information technology and limitless connectivity between machines means every step of the supply chain can be monitored and modified in real time for continuous improvement.
And as more and more devices connect and talk to each other, artificial intelligence and machine learning will help them understand each other – and understand people. Cameras recognise images, virtual assistants understand complex speech, and technology learns how to respond without the need for reprogramming.
Sounds bewildering and you think you won’t be able to see the wood for the trees? Intelligent connected devices can learn which data to report on and which to ignore, so that you are only presented with what is relevant. Think it sounds like a security nightmare? Devices can learn to spot and report on anomalies, privacy can be protected because only the relevant personal information is relayed, and blockchain technology is ensuring that no one party has centralised control of information.
It sounds like a cliché, but the scope of what you can do with the information that today’s technology can provide, really is limited only by your imagination. And don’t be overwhelmed by the IoT phenomenon. Remember it’s only Tech. It’s what you do with it that counts.
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Director of Digital Strategy and Innovation