I respect the criticisms of the Internet of Things, particularly when you consider the security concerns and some of the more frivolous IoT applications that seem to draw public attention. Let's face it, if you phone home to preheat the oven for dinner you probably aren't doing so because you need to but because you are satisfying your inner gadget geek.
Don't get me started on gizmos like the Amazon Dash buttons and the smart refrigerator that generates your grocery list. (All of those needlessly open up possible security gaps in your home network).
There certainly are IoT opportunities at the residential level when you consider efficiencies in heating, cooling, energy use, and home security, although such systems do raise their own security concerns. So consumers, manufacturers, and low-voltage equipment integrators have to practice due diligence.
The real value from the IoT is still going to be in the business world, whether the applications are in facilities management, manufacturing, retail, transportation, supply chain, or other environments where the IoT can help to deliver operating efficiencies, faster service, and reliability.
There's something else that the IoT brings to a business, early steps into a new world of computing where we are heading anyway. It's a world where mobility, advanced networks, machine learning, cloud computing, and analytics all play together. A report by Forrester Research highlights how those varied technologies serve roles within an IoT initiative.
The IoT is a prime candidate for breaking away from the traditional central IT model. Most enterprises have enough experience with cloud computing today to enable companies to add the compute and storage resources needed for IoT applications in the cloud, rather than provisioning new hardware.
New IoT applications also allow companies to move intelligence -- analytics -- out to the network edge, and to use the mass of IoT data to implement machine learning. Both will require some new skillsets within the technical staff, but both also can help speed and improve decision making.
Then there are mobile technologies. With IoT initiatives we can better utilize those millions of phones that we can't seem to live without. We already are seeing retailers use IoT concepts in beacons to identify customers and their buying patterns as they walk into a store, providing the retailer with a chance to promote specials at the most opportune time. IoT technologies also can tell our phones and us how to avoid delays on our commute. And, they can update customers and shippers about the status of products passing through the supply chain or delivery process.
The irony is that for all the talk about the IoT, some of these capabilities were in place or at least in development before most of started chanting the IoT mantra a couple years ago. Yes, there will be those frivolous applications, and yes there will be some more security breaches. But those are part of the learning process. The IoT will get there, maybe not in the precise form that we envision -- or in some cases curse -- today, but it's real. Remember that every technology does a bit of shape shifting as it moves through maturation.
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