The Internet of Things

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The Internet of Things has the potential to change our businesses and our lives as much as or possibly more than today's Internet. It has been a long time in coming, maybe since the advent of bar codes but certainly since the development of RFID tags.

Among the recognized thought leaders is McKinsey. You can check out a piece they posted in March here. IBM has a clever 5-minute video that introduces it here.

The Internet of Things is another aspect of the digital transformation of the world. IBM has given it the Smarter Planet label. Others call it the global digital nervous system. It is the collection of devices, phones, computers, sensors, and more that are continuously communicating digitized information. And once that information is digitized, we can begin to do something with it. What kind of information do you need to advance your business objectives?

When IBM talks about the Smarter Plane, it is talking about the Internet of Things. IBM sees it as the intelligence being infused into the systems and processes that make the world work — into things no one would recognize as computers: cars, appliances, roadways, power grids, clothes, even natural systems such as agriculture and waterways.

Would your business like to know how people actually use your products? It might change the way you create, design, build, and market. Of course, you could approximate some of this information through focus groups, but they are costly and imperfect. Sensors built into your products and communicating back to you about how they are actually being used would give you the real thing.

RFID is steadily altering the supply chain. The time when every consumer product has an RFID tag remains some time away, but the technology is being widely adopted in the back room, in the back lot, in the warehouse, on the shipping dock, and more. That's the Internet of Things.

Smartphones, WiFi, wireless communications of all types are fueling the Internet of Things. The number of smartphone users soon will be in the hundreds of millions. Each smartphone can be a sensor on the Internet of Things.

Pretty soon, for example, people will use smartphones to purchase a can of soda from a vending machine; that's the Internet of Things. These phones will be generating presence sensing data, GPS data, motion data, transaction data, and more. Would your marketing department like to know when someone walks into a place selling your product? Better yet, what if they pick up your product and then start to put it down! (Remember, devices can sense motion.)

The Internet of Things gets exponentially bigger when digitized surveillance data is added to it. Think of the various CSI and NCIS cop shows where the good guys grab digital video from various surveillance cameras and combine it with blueprints of buildings and schematics. That is Hollywood make-believe today but clearly points to the Internet of Things, a digitally transformed world where vast information could be available at the click of a button.

What will be needed to succeed in that world is excellent analytics — fast real-time analytics that grab the right information and spew out accurate analyses fast. Are you prepared? ###

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