It seems like everywhere you turn these days there’s an Internet of Things (IoT) reference. It seems eventually everything down to the dust on the floor will be able to track information to help monitor an atmosphere or an assembly line, keep track of people’s health, or track our movements.
What’s less talked about is that some analysts are actually lowering their predictions for IoT sales. Gartner Inc.’s 2020 forecast of 20.8 billion in 2020, from 4.9 billion in 2015, is down from the 25 billion connected things it projected a year earlier, writes Eric Johnsa in The Street. “And additional reductions are possible if businesses take a measured pace to embracing IoT, or if newer consumer product categories such as wearables don’t take off as fast as expected,” he adds.
Predictions can also vary a great deal depending on whether the analyst is including devices such as smartphones. Why does this matter? Because we already have a smartphone industry, so it won’t generate much additional growth, Johnsa writes. “Gartner expects about two-thirds of the connected things that will be in existence in 2020 — 13.5 billion — to be consumer devices,” he writes. “This appears to include smartphones and tablets, and broadly contains a number of products that aren’t likely to fuel major growth for telecom or cloud service providers angling to profit from a surge in the number of connected devices.”
“To some tech observers, it feels like the Internet of Things has been the ‘next big thing’ forever, without actually turning into the current big thing,” writes Calvin Hennick in EdTech. “When people built smartphones and launched app stores, they didn’t really know what the ‘killer app’ would be,” Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor Norman Sadeh tells him. “We’re in a similar situation with the Internet of Things. We’re trying to build an infrastructure that makes it easy for people to experiment, and we’ll see what works and what doesn’t. We don’t really know.” The IoT is even being blamed for global warming.
That said, whether you’re talking about toothbrushes or toasters, the IoT is starting to get interest from major vendors such as Intel, General Electric, and IBM. Not only are they developing their own products, but they’re also acquiring smaller companies in the market. These developments offer the promise of transforming a number of industries—including yours.
Firefighters. In one recent demonstration, Intel connected a processor to the firefighters’ self-contained breathing apparatus, writes Lindsey O’Donnell in CRN. “While they are in dangerous areas others can track how much oxygen they have left in their tank—and ultimately make critical life decisions based on that information,” she writes. “Firefighters are also equipped with a pulse gesture device and activity detector, so that operators can receive that sensory information and track whether they are signaling for help or are in a crawling position.” Such projects could be extended to other dangerous professions as well.
Manufacturing. In an industry that’s already being transformed by robots, having a way for those robots to communicate with each other isn’t far behind. “If you can order spare parts or new products simply by pressing a button or shouting at your PC—or have systems order it for you and have it delivered tomorrow—think of the advantages,” writes Phil Marshall in Automation World. As that happens, IT will play a larger role, he predicts. “Better cooperation between IT and the plant-floor operational technology (OT) will be needed.” The IoT has the potential to disrupt the manufacturing industry, he writes.
Healthcare. The world IoT in healthcare market alone was evaluated at $60.4 billion in 2014, and is estimated to garner $136.8 billion by 2021, registering a CAGR of 12.5 percent over the forecast period, writes AcuteMarketReports in its report, World Internet of Things in Healthcare Market – Opportunities and Forecasts, 2014 -2021. Potential healthcare applications range from devices like the FitBit to letting sick people stay at home rather than in a hospital.
More than almost any other industry, though, healthcare is concerned about the security implications of the IoT. “You have less control over connected medical devices than any other aspect of your technology environment,” notes Forrester report Healthcare’s IoT Dilemma: Connected Medical Devices. In addition, healthcare devices are vulnerable to cyberattack. “Threats against medical devices include denial-of-service (DoS), patient data theft, therapy manipulation and asset destruction,” the report said. “Each represents risk to your organization, with DoS currently being the most severe.”
Smart cities. Cities are already full of cameras, sensors, and automatic responses. Intel and GE are working to add to them, and then link them all together to help cities work more efficiently. “Smart street lamps can detect the movement of people across a crosswalk, or the number of cars on a road,” writes Dean Takahashi in Venture Beat. “Among the benefits: pattern recognition. You could, for instance, tell a food truck where the spots are in the city where there’s a combination of a lot of foot traffic and available parking spaces.” Cities could also use the information to monitor the use of streetlights and “listen” for gunshots.
While much of the emphasis of the IoT is on consumer devices, its role in the enterprise is coming, and the CIO needs to be ready, warn James Williams, Theresa Bamrick, and Mayank Malik in CIO Review. “They key is that there are no direct business outcomes tied to the Internet of Things,” they write. “The enterprise won’t feel significant benefit until a network of IoT-enabled devices is working in harmony, to solve a business problem, at scale. One could argue that no other organization in the enterprise is better positioned to support and lead IoT initiatives than the CIO organization.”
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