The Internet of Things has been bandied around a lot in the I.T. world recently but it isn’t just another fancy buzzword, it references a huge development leap in technology. Our dear old friend Wikipedia sums it up quite nicely; the Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to “…the internetworking of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items – often referred to as Smart Devices or Connected Devices, which are embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.”
Simplify it. What is it?
So, is the Internet of Things an actual THING? Is there a big server located somewhere that is home to the masses of data being transmitted by the aforementioned ‘Smart Devices?’ Well, no. It’s an expression used to describe, as Wiki nicely informs us, “the expanding network of interconnected internet-enabled devices”. It is also sometimes referred to as M2M or machine to machine (which probably makes more logical sense but IoT seems to have stuck, you have to admit it is catchy.)
Have you seen the references to controlled ‘smart’ homes? Controlling the heating and lighting in your home from a connected device such as your phone, so you don’t have to come home to a cold house, or have to turn around at the start of a journey because you think you’ve left a light on. Smart fridges and appliances are becoming commonplace, Samsung have launched a WiFi-enabled model with its own built-in touch screen, so you can order your groceries from your fridge.
Now, these are just some of the things that are out there already, available to buy and not uncommon. But this new technology is absolutely not limited to the home. It is within the workplace that the IoT is going to make a huge difference to the way we go about our daily lives. Whether a factory, bank, office, you name it, the smart devices that connect to the IoT will become permanent fixtures and so they should.
How will the IoT affect the workplace?
The IoT will connect all aspects of your business, each ‘thing’ will be able to ‘talk’ to something, someone or somewhere else. Running low on ink? Your printer will automatically order more from the supplier. Internet speeds running low? Your router will let your provider know. With the IoT, everything you use and everything that is important to you and the way you work can, and more than likely will eventually be connected.
IoT data is likely to help your business optimize workflows and staffing levels, in turn maximising productivity and efficiency. Predictive analytics will ensure that problems can be prevented. Not only this, but organizations will be able to use the IoT to track customer behaviour, spot trends and roll out new services and products quickly in-line with the consumer.
Frost & Sullivan* has estimated that the IoT will grow to over 80 billion connected devices by the end of 2020, that’s only 4 years away!
How can we prepare?
In order to make the most of the IoT, which will bring together machines and objects, employees and customers, Frost & Sullivan have discussed that it will require, “a robust, integrated unified communications platform to improve collaboration and deliver better business outcomes.” UC will make it possible to deliver the IoT data, in real time, to decision-makers, who will then be able to access this data from any device.
If a company hopes to achieve full automation in the machine to a human link of the IoT, optimizing ROI, then they need to factor in the UC platform.
Now whether or not bowing down to the Internet of Things will be a choice or not, it makes sense to get your UC up to date sooner, rather than later. The future is no longer around the corner, we are living in it. When it comes to UC, we can help, so that when new IoT products start landing on the shelves you’re ahead of the game.