Viewpoints

About This Technology

The Internet of Things (IoT) uses embedded computing and electronic communications to turn physical objects into cyberphysical devices that can provide information, take physical action, and interconnect with other objects as easily as purely digital networks can. IoT devices are as diverse as industrial equipment and factories, roads and bridges, smart grids, and even packages and everyday objects in the home. Commercial use of the IoT enables a range of benefits, including enhanced tracking of stock and inventory, greater optimization of workflow, and improved transparency. The IoT can enhance or even transform a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, retail, logistics, health care, energy, and transport, and can create new opportunities in areas such as smart cities.

The Internet of Things is a disparate set of technologies, and many devices are currently within walled gardens of interoperability. However, the IoT industry is growing and evolving rapidly, and companies' R&D efforts, market interests, legislation, and other variables could have a strong shaping effect on the eventual form of the Internet (or Internets) of Things. Currently the biggest success is the Industrial Internet of Things, in which Industry 4.0 applications such as advanced manufacturing, predictive maintenance, and remote asset monitoring offer clear advantages to companies. Although developers have generated many unique and interesting concepts of consumer-focused smart objects, overall interest in a consumer IoT has been lackluster because of a combination of price, lack of compelling use cases, and perhaps consumer concerns about privacy and cybersecurity.

The range of technologies necessary to create a coherent Internet of Things creates opportunities in industries from device manufacturing to software development, from the scale of telecoms networks down to the level of individual components and materials development. The Internet of Things will also generate large amounts of valuable data, and a key to gaining the most from the IoT will be how well companies can extract actionable insights from these large data sets. Indeed, companies with experience and technology for analyzing large data sets stand to benefit tremendously from the resultant increase in demand for big-data services. More important, the Internet of Things offers a high level of customization to individual companies' needs and promises to offer advantages to a huge number of industries through enhanced logistics and planning in the short term through to potentially unprecedented levels of automation in the medium to long term.