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Where do IoT and collaboration technologies intersect?

The Internet of Things is creeping into the enterprise and could change the way employees collaborate. Expert Jon Arnold explains the potential impact of IoT on collaboration.

This is an important question, not so much for what's happening today, but for what is to come.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is really a first-generation term referring to a hyper-connected world where people, machines and things are seamlessly intertwined on the Web and in the cloud. When that happens, the second generation will take over -- namely the Internet of Everything. In this world, not only will these elements share a common fabric for communication and collaboration technologies, but the associated data will open up new possibilities for learning, innovation and problem solving.

IoT is a lofty objective, but currently only a nominal number of machines or "things" are Web enabled. People, on the other hand, are saturated with connectivity options. But in terms of potential IoT endpoints, we are far outnumbered by devices. As such, IoT is still an early-stage idea. But with ever-improving technology, it's just a matter of time until every "thing" can be connected to this ecosystem.

For now, this means that the impact of IoT will be limited on collaboration, since this activity is primarily among people. Good teamwork depends on good communication capabilities as employees interact with each other to share ideas, understand problems and achieve business outcomes. Today's collaboration technologies can deliver these goals without an IoT overlay, but this too is a first-generation response.

A key challenge for collaboration technologies is demonstrating a tangible return on investment (ROI). As businesses get further along in their deployments, ROI will become more of a requirement. So far, collaboration vendors have focused on getting the underlying technology to work, but not so much on key performance indicators (KPIs) that can measure productivity and team performance. Ultimately, what management really wants is to streamline workflows and automate processes, and this is where collaboration intersects with IoT.

To address these outcomes, second-generation collaboration technologies will go beyond person-to-person interaction and tap into the data derived from the associated endpoints -- such as smartphones, tablets and PCs -- along with the various software applications used to collaborate. These are the machines and things that complete the IoT equation. As such, when collaboration activity can be tracked among people, machines and things, new forms of data will be created.

With the right analytics expertise, businesses will have a much easier time measuring the true value of collaboration.

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