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How SMBs can use the Internet of Things

December 3, 2015

The term ‘Internet of Things’ was created by Kevin Ashton when he was at MIT in 1999 as the title of a PowerPoint. He defines it as “information technology that can gather its own information.” However, if you surveyed SMBs (small- and mid-size businesses) about the term, most have never heard of it. So why should SMBs start to look at IoT, as it is called? The reason is because in the next five to ten years it will have a significant impact on individuals, businesses and economies.

Why is IoT different?

Until recently, getting the state of the physical world into an information system involved some human intervention. With IoT that human intermediation is removed and systems now make the observations, and on a continual basis. Here is a nice example:

I might connect my car to my smart garage door opener, which I’ve connected to my smart lock, which activates my smart thermostat that I’ve synced to my smart lighting system. I can program them all to simultaneously interact and do their jobs when I turn onto my driveway.

Another key aspect is that this information is transmitted via the Internet and uses mobile and cloud technology.

IoT market predictions

Although the predictions from various groups differ on the size of the impact on both individuals and businesses, the numbers they predict are significant. On the size of the IoT market, the forecasts for 2020 are:

  • Gartner: $300 billion
  • IDC: $7 trillion
  • General Electric: $15 trillion

In terms of actual ‘things’, the forecasts are:

  • 25 billion things connected to the Internet by 2020 (Gartner)
  • 250 million vehicles connected to the Internet by 2020 (Gartner)
  • over 10 million units of smart clothing will be sold by 2020 (Tractica)
  • machine-to-machine connections will grow to 27 billion by 2024 (Machina Research)

While some aspects of IoT will affect consumers, such as fitness and home monitors, the greater effect, and value, will be in business. According to McKinsey, IoT won’t be just a technology for developed economies, but there will be significant potential in emerging markets as well.

Business uses of IoT

Anyone who has been into a factory will know that a lot of reporting and management is still done manually. IoT and the Internet open the opportunity for a smarter and more connected production floor, through improved monitoring of processes, prediction of outages, and the ability to anticipate and react quicker to changes. In the supply chain, there will be new opportunities to track and measure processes and activities, to monitor trucks and shipments, and therefore introduce innovative business practices.

With IoT-enabled products, it will be possible to be connected with customers in a way that can make businesses more relevant. Other possibilities include early warnings of performance degradation or failures so that a customer can be alerted and address the problem. This would be a major impact on warranty and service contracts.

How IoT will change maintenance. Source: General Electric - The Industrial Internet@Work

How IoT will change maintenance. Source: General Electric – The Industrial Internet@Work

recent report lists some ways that data from IoT could impact manufacturing performance. The top five are:

  • Improved production forecasts
  • Understand plant performance
  • Service and support customers faster
  • Real-time alerts
  • Correlate manufacturing and business performance information

The issues around IoT

IoT comes with its own list of issues that need to be addressed, these include:

  • where to embed IoT points in products,
  • how to offload the data from devices,
  • how to format the data sent so it can be easily actionable,
  • how to monitor the devices and update their software.

For the IT organization, the issue of a bimodal, or two-speed, IT capability will be required to cope with immediate customer-supporting applications that need to be updated quickly and frequently, together with the traditional work on systems of record that keep the business running.

IoT and integration

Making use of integration platforms, like Flowgear, will simplify the management of IoT information, allowing businesses to create and maintain the data flows and business rules off-site in the cloud. A typical challenge for SMBs with new technology is that their IT resources and skills are limited. Flowgear’s integration platform doesn’t require on-premise infrastructure, and its agile integration approach makes is easier and quicker to create and maintain integration flows. With Flowgear’s connectors you can start with an early IoT project.

  • You have access to Flowgear’s technology and application endpoints
  • Because Flowgear runs in the cloud you don’t have to worry about handling the data offload
  • Flowgear’s processor nodes, you can format data in the most actionable way

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