Dumb devices are becoming smart
It is already impossible to imagine a world without the Internet. We depend on the Web for many aspects of our business and personal lives. However, the Internet of things (IOT) is a whole new ballgame. Everything is becoming connected, our homes, kitchens, cars, medical devices, toys - the list is endless. Almost every device being built today is embedded with electronics, sensors and connectivity, to enable these objects to collect and exchange data, and talk to the Web, and each other.
The World Economic Forum predicts that the number of connected devices will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.6% over the next four years from 22.9 billion in 2016 to a whopping 50.1 billion by 2020. "This translates to nearly five connected devices per person on the earth," says Richard Vester, Group Executive, EOH Cloud services. "And this is just scratching the surface."
He says dumb devices are becoming smart. "Networks are getting larger and more complex. The price of sensors is dropping rapidly, meaning more and more data can be collected and analysed, to help individuals and organisations make better, faster, more intelligent decisions."
This is resulting in vendors and manufacturers being able to cheaply add sensors or other communications modules to their products for only a few rands. We are rapidly approaching the day when everything will be Internet-enabled, he explains.
"There are several advantages and disadvantages to dumb devices becoming smart, that we need to think about before we can totally understand the impact IOT can have on our way of living," he says.
Firstly, data. The more information we have on any given situation, the more equipped we are to make the right decision. "Being able to remotely turn your home lights on and off saves a physical trip, and hours of time, for example. Similarly, the ability to keep track of the quantity and quality of items in your fridge, and knowing the expiration dates on items helps to improve safety, and ensures you'll never run out of staple items."
From a business perspective, business processes will be greatly enhanced. "The IOT will improve products and services, enable tailored solutions, and deliver a much improved customer experience. Essentially, it allows business to focus on these areas like they normally do, but do it better and faster. It also allows them to develop better products," Richard says.
"Another area which we will see transformed by the IOT is the idea of fixed business models. There is already a blurring of lines between banks, cellular providers, and general stores, but this will be taken further. Think about driverless cars, and wearables that help to track health and fitness. The IOT will reinvent business models as we know them."
Finally, the IOT will help business velocity and agility improve in leaps and bounds, says Richard. "Organisations will have to adapt or die. The landscape is changing. Think about how traditional taxi companies have been practically wiped off the map, or how hotel chains are up against AirBnB and various online booking platforms. Businesses who don't reinvent themselves and transform digitally risk being left behind."
The true business potential to add value through the IOT is ultimately the potential of real time big data analytics to capture and analyse the flood of data that is drowning today's enterprises. "This will ultimately transform business operations and improve our lives in every way. Analytics will provide real time personal and business insights that will allow us to make instant good decisions based on that information. The days of pie charts, thumb sucks and out-of-date predictions are past."