Opinion by Thornton May

When IT meets the IoT

The question for executives isn’t ‘What can smart things do?’ but ‘What can we do with smart things?’

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The Internet of Things goes by many names. Cisco’s preferred moniker is the Internet of Everything. Then there’s the Internet of Better Things (Ikea), the Analytics of Everything (SAS), the Industrial Awakening (KPCB), the Industrial Internet (GE), Everyware (Adam Greenfield), Ubiquitous Computing, or UbiComp (Mark Weiser at PARC), Things That Think (Hiroshi Ishii of MIT) and Enchanted Objects (David Rose of MIT).

But whatever you call it, the embedding of rudimentary intelligence and communications capabilities into an expanding array of physical and organic “things” is well under way. And it will materially impact modern existence. The question facing executives in general and IT professionals in particular is not so much “What can smart things do?” as “What can we do with smart things?” Specifically and more strategically, what do all these smart things do for us, and what do we need to do to make money with smart things?

Projections

There are now thought to be roughly 5 billion connected things. By 2020, there will be over 200 billion smart devices. That’s 26 smart objects for every man, woman and child on the planet. We will be living in a “sensor jungle” alive with microdevices tweeting and chirping their status constantly.

In the “connected transportation” space alone, there are 369 companies in 11 categories that have collectively raised $3.15 billion. Venture capital firm KPCB estimates that the Industrial Awakening will generate $14.2 trillion of global output by 2030.A 2014 report by international research company Markets and Markets estimated that the IoT will grow to $290 billion globally by 2017 and then continue to grow by 30% each year. There is definitely something going on here.

Technology adoption patterns indicate we are about five years away from a time when mainstream consumers will expect products to be situation-aware and require services to address their specific needs at any specific moment.

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