The Internet of Things – Does this Cloud Have a Silver Lining?

AllianceTech Internet of Things Cloud

Years before becoming an MIT professor, Kevin Ashton was employed by Procter & Gamble, where he was asked to determine why stores kept running out of certain lipstick shades. After extensive research, he found a mundane answer. Store proprietors were lax about sending in stock reports.  Ashton’s solution was brilliant. He had an inexpensive microchip inserted in each lipstick and an antenna placed on a nearby shelf. When a shade of lipstick was getting low, the technology alerted Proctor & Gamble to ship more. The Internet of Things (IoT) was born.

Every time you buy a device that connects to the Internet, you're helping build the IoT.  Individual devices that can access the cloud is old news, but when they can interact with each other, things get exciting. The IoT might have already arrived at your house, providing a way to access your garage door opener, front door deadbolt, thermostat and even smoke alarm online 24/7.

According to TechTarget, the “things” in the IoT can be a person with a heart monitor implant, a farm animal with a biochip transponder, an automobile that has built-in sensors to alert the driver when tire pressure is low, or any natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and can transfer data over a network. RF technology is the primary method of communication which can include RFID sensors.

In a recent Gartner survey, more than 40 percent of organizations expected the IoT to significantly impact business over the next three years. Many retailers already track inventory with RFID tags, and manufacturers use industrial automation and utilities that have sophisticated monitoring and control systems that could easily transform to IoT.

Many of those Gartner survey respondents felt that senior levels of their organizations don’t yet have a good understanding of the potential impact of the IoT, so the real challenge might be in understanding the business opportunities enabled by smart products and new ecosystems. Overall, the survey results show that there is a clear need for more internal education at all levels in an organization to explain the potential of the IoT and to seek innovative ways to utilize it.

As devices communicate with each other, using data they gathered without any help from us, we will be able to track and count everything. Eventually, the IoT will allow marketers to utilize information about connected products and will be able to personalize them to customers. That means we will have even more “big data” to manage.

I’ve found interesting examples of IoT products from Nest, including a Nest Thermostat that is programmable from your smart phone. The smoke and Carbone Monoxide (CO) alarm (below) sends a message to your phone if the alarm goes off or the batteries run low, but you can check on it any time you want. If the CO alarm goes off, your Nest Thermostat automatically turns off your gas furnace – a possible source of poisonous carbon monoxide leaks. Plus, the Nest Protect activity sensors improve the Auto-Away feature of your Nest Thermostat. Underwriters Laboratories says that in the 1970s, it would take about 30 minutes for a fire to take over a room. Today, it can take as little as five.  Imagine the number of lives this type of IoT product will save.

Nest Thermostat

For a thorough and inspiring overview of the IoT, make time to view Dr. John Barrett’s outstanding TED talk.

I agree with Dr. Barrett that the IoT is already happening and that it will change our lives.  And you will be part of it.  “Limited only by your imagination” is often an overused phrase that can be applied to most anything from technology to sandwiches, but I believe it aptly pertains to the IoT.  I’m not yet sure exactly how the IoT will affect the event marketing industry, but I am certain that it will. We won’t see significant adoption this year, because security and privacy issues still need to be addressed, but we will continue to hear and learn more about it.

In the meantime, I’m aware of two IoT trade shows. Hosted by Webcom Communications, Internet of Things North America is an innovative event covering advanced connectivity and cloud based monitoring/control of devices, facilities, automobiles and enterprise operations. It will be held in Chicago on April 15-16. IoT West serves the western US, Canada and Mexico and will be held November 5-6.

What do you think?  Will the IoT change your career? Your life?  The world?  Let’s start a discussion. Please post your thoughts here.