Just like with every new technology introduction, there’s a lot of buzz about Internet of Things or IoT. Several organizations are referring to it using different terms – Cisco uses ‘Internet of Everything’, IBM uses ‘Smart Planet’, GE uses ‘Industrial Internet’ and some others call it the ‘Cyber-Physical Systems’. All terms refer to the idea of using the internet to connect physical objects, thus extending the connectivity from people and organizations to the physical objects that are used by these people & organizations. These physical objects include the ones that are already connected – computers, phones, tablets and so on – but also the ones that are not connected today – home appliances, personal objects, factory machines, finished or unfinished goods.
IoT has a lot of impact on individuals and organizations alike. And a lot is being done on both fronts. However, the approach in both cases needs to be different because of the different needs of each. If we look from the perspective of organizations, the modern world has witnessed 3 industrial revolutions so far – starting with the Steam Engine around the 1800s, Electricity around 1900s and Information Technology around 1970s. IoT could very well be the 4th industrial revolution that would transform the industries and the world.
A very important point to keep in mind is the fact that each of these inventions (steam engine, electricity & IT) needed a lot of other things to fall in place for them to bring in the revolution. For instance, after the invention of electricity, it took a lot of time for industries to let go of their investments in the steam engine and the huge rooms that housed them. I call this phenomenon the “Law of Peripherals”, which suggests that an invention needs a lot of peripheral people, processes & technologies to change in order to be effective.
IoT is a new concept and applying the Law of Peripherals, it’ll take some time before it becomes completely effective (an argument can be made that the total duration for IoT to be effective will be much lesser than that for steam engine). Having said that, organizations should start thinking and talking about it. Most of the clients that I work with are either manufacturers or retailers. Each of them seems to be hearing & thinking about IoT. However, very few seem to have a strategy or a roadmap in place. Some of them, especially the retailers and consumer goods manufacturers, do have point solutions that use IoT.
To have an effective IoT strategy, an organization will need a lot of players – hardware providers (for the sensors & actuators), software providers (for the protocols & platforms), infrastructure providers (wireless, wired or mobile) and business process designers (mostly internal to the organization, but in some cases also external consultants). Most importantly, they’ll need an “IoT Integrator” who can put all these business, process and technology together and help integrate with the existing process & systems. And as the variety of the hardware, software & infrastructure increases with variations in business processes, the role of the IoT Integrator will be very critical in determining the success of the IoT strategy.
About the Author: Kejal Shah is a technology enthusiast and an avid blogger. He runs Hexaware’s Manufacturing & Retail industry vertical in BeNeLux & Nordics. He can be followed on Twitter @sanedevil and on LinkedIn