The Internet of Things is the next step in wireless connectivity; a digital ecosystem interconnecting people, objects and their environment.
The number of devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow at an incredible rate: an estimated 500,000 more devices are connected every day. By 2020, over 50 billion devices are expected to make up the Internet of Things, marking a revolution in the ways businesses make, do, measure, track, buy and sell.
What is the Internet of Things?
So what is an 'Internet of Things'? Even everyday household devices increasingly include some form of advanced sensor, transmitter or receiver: watches, cars, lightbulbs, house keys, alarm systems, heating and cooling even coffee machines.
These devices - able to wirelessly transmit and receive data, and respond to or control any other device in the ecosystem - make up an Internet of Things. Their ability to interact with one another is helping us to influence our environment, automate our lives and simplify everyday tasks. Popular IoT hubs have also started to enter the home to tie all these devices together.
In business, endless possibilities exist for the IoT to improve productivity, reduce operating costs and speed up communication. And as consumers increasingly expect highly automated and personalised services, utilising the IoT will become vital to success in every industry.
Businesses and the IoT
Specialised IoT devices are already being implemented across numerous industries, shaking up traditional practices.
Manufacturers are using IoT sensors within plant equipment to continuously track operating efficiency. Operators can measure component productivity dips in real time and notify when a damaged or worn component is nearing point of failure. New parts are automatically sourced and preventative repairs can be carried out before an entire system is compromised. Even farmers are using IoT sensors, to monitor weather forecasts, measure soil moisture and nutrients, then identify prime harvesting periods.
Soon, our very presence in a retail store will result in a barrage of data communications: recalling previous purchases, recognising the items in our shopping cart to make recommendations, or offering personalised discounts. Behind the scenes, ordering and supplying decisions will be entirely automated based on current stock levels, sales forecasts, customer data, even the weather.
Managing an IoT
The real challenge for such a highly connected business will be capturing these vast amounts of data from multiple devices, without leading to information bottlenecks or data siloing. And beyond analysis of this data, it will also need to automatically communicate with inventory, transaction and job management systems.
When businesses first gained the ability to amass huge volumes of data from every corner of their operations, they faced a similar challenge managing and analysing this data in order to realise its advantages. And just as ERP systems helped businesses manage big data, successfully harnessing the IoT will require the expertise of vendors able to identify the core needs of a business and build highly personalised solutions. Solutions not only capable of handling high volumes of data
, customisable analytics
, and easily integrating
with other systems, but also backed by experience building intuitive business solutions.
Looking to the future
We are only just beginning to explore how the Internet of Things can transform our lives. But as IoT-capable devices continue to pervade our home and work lives, every business will need to adapt to take advantage of the powerful technologies available and deliver faster, personalised service. For a competitive organisation, an intuitive and future-focused ERP system will become vital to harnessing the incredible opportunities presented by the Internet of Things.