The Internet of Things Will Change Everything


By Samuel Greengard

Today, somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.4 billion people worldwide use the Internet. But if you focus on that number you're missing the bigger picture.

An NPD report notes that 315 million people in the U.S. now have 425 million devices connected to the Internet. A Cisco Systems report predicts that the number of Internet-connected devices will reach 25 billion by 2015 and 50 billion by 2020. This evolution in the Internet promises to unleash changes that make today's tech environment seem downright quaint. Cisco predicts that in the future 99 percent of physical objects will be part of some type of network.

Right now, most of the action is in consumer devices such as Blu-ray players, smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles. The environment, however, is evolving rapidly. For example, Nike's Fuel Band collects data about a person's daily activities and movement, syncs the information with an iPhone via Bluetooth and stores the data on a personal Website. Ecobee's Smart Thermostat allows homeowners to adjust the inside temperature via a mobile phone from anywhere in the world.

CIOs should pay close attention to the Internet of Things. Right now, most machines—industrial, commercial and consumer—aren't networked. But getting these devices—automobiles, microwave ovens, environmental sensors, medical equipment and even tracking devices for farm animals—online can put data into play in new and remarkable ways. It can open the door for predictive maintenance, smarter functionality, lower energy costs and a far better understanding of usage and activity patterns.

What's more, when consumer data gleaned from Internet-connected devices is plugged in, "you begin to understand a person's behavior and actions in a more nuanced and relevant way," says Derrick Daye, managing partner for The Blake Project, a Los Angeles-based strategic brand consulting firm. Of course, this has implications for marketing, customer service and various other functions, especially as social media and other data is plugged into the equation.

Over the next decade, more than a few company fortunes will be won and lost based on how well organizations adapt to the Internet of Things. This environment will require new APIs for products, new data brokering models and, most of all, a focus on extending IT into every nook and corner of work and life in order to provide greater business value.