The “Internet of Things” Is The New Revolution For Business

| July 7, 2014

Concept web storage.The “internet of things” has long been hyped as the next big change for business and lifestyles in America, with devices that will run themselves, service themselves, communicate among themselves, and even seem to think for themselves.  Now, suddenly, what yesterday seemed to be futuristic, aspirational technology, is quickly becoming real.  To paraphrase Albert Einstein, he does not think about the future because it will be here soon enough.

In May, 1950 science fiction author Ray Bradbury published a short story entitled There Will Come Soft Rains.  The story imagined a computer controlled house that cooks, cleans, and services its residences in every way.  When the owners died, the house went right on cooking, cleaning, announcing events, and doing everything else to manage life, even though no one was living there.  The story covers one day – August 4, 2026. (You can listen to the story here)

Bradbury’s story was remarkable (or very lucky) for its choice of a date, because the next few years will see a rapid acceleration in the interconnection of things that will communicate with one another (and with us) through the internet.  It began with a Coke Machine at Carnegie Melon University in the 1980s that would relay information when it needed restocking.  Today, this marriage of minds and machines is providing a huge flow of data that is constantly being electronically evaluated to deliver “just in time” products and services as they are needed.

The technology that is driving this revolution is well known to the public, and huge investments are being made in them.  Cloud computing allows the cheap storage of vast amounts of data.  The cost of sensors and electronic circuits is coming down so fast that they can be economically imbedded in everyday devices and relay a constant stream of information to the cloud.  Mobile devices allow you immediate access to the cloud; and 90% of the earth’s land surface today has access to mobile phone signal.  The access and use of such information will become commonplace – and iPad classes are now being offered in preschool.

Cisco estimates that there will be nearly 50 billion connected ‘things’ by 2020, and some have pushed estimates even higher. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the Internet of Things has the potential to create an economic impact of between $2.7 to $6.2 trillion annually by 2025.  Both dates are eerily close to August 4, 2026, the day in Bradbury’s fictional story.

The potential change will be transformational.  Machines will become predictive and self-aware, and in communication with one another.  Maintenance alerts will be sent before breakdown.  The need for energy will become more predictive and less wasteful.  Your health can be monitored 24 hours/day so that “e-health” and “tele-medicine” could become real (think of your smartphone being able to scan your health like it was a Tricorder from Star Trek).  Medical diagnosis will be made in the cloud by doctors not on site.

The changes may reach to the most mundane things.  You will be able to ask Google “where are my car keys”; or “where is that shipment”; or a father may ask Google “where is my daughter?”

What should businesses do to prepare for this coming revolution?  The best place to start is to consider what accessible data would mean the most to your business.  Rather than think about the Internet of Things in terms of billions of devices and sensors, focus on what matters the most to your daily business – what is that data that you would most like to have immediate and constant access to.  Then search out technology that could provide that information to you.  You may find that it already exists.

Finally, remember that data is not the same as information – data is raw, unorganized facts; information is data that is processed, organized and structured for a given context.

Information is not the same as knowledge; and knowledge is not the same as wisdom.  Data will be gathered in ever greater heaps; computers will organize it to give information; many will run to and fro and knowledge will increase (Daniel 12: 4).  But The Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2: 6).

Category: Technology