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Exploring the internet of (some) things

Ask 100 people to define the internet of things and you’ll likely hear 100 different answers. In general, though, most will agree that IoT is a network of physical objects with embedded technologies that are accessed through the internet.

With more and more of our personal and business devices being mobile and smart, we know that nearly anything, anywhere, with sensors and connectivity can become a data collection and transmission device.

But IoT is much more than technology. It is a network that enhances business and human activities without human and manual intervention. And fully realizing IoT involves a journey with lots of moving parts:

People and things: IoT means connecting people and things and processes in more useful and relevant ways so they can access the right information at the right time, truly capitalizing on the promise of IoT. But with business content and data dispersed so broadly, managing the plethora of IoT-relevant devices securely and with sensible rules becomes a critical requirement. Right now, enterprise mobility solutions are the most capable for effectively managing data, IoT and mobile devices.

No end of endpoints: This year alone, Gartner says we’ll see 5.5 million new “things” connected to network infrastructures every day. While the world’s population will grow to 4.6 billion by 2020, IoT will grow even faster: According to Cisco Internet Business Solutions, there will be 50 billion IoT devices by 2020, which equates to 6 or 7 connected devices per person. Businesses must get a handle on how the mobile device and endpoint proliferation impacts them and how to best manage it all.

Promises, promises: When devices are managed correctly, data can be collected, analyzed and used for process improvements and business transformation, translating into cost reductions, better products and services, and stronger, more competitive enterprises.

Deep impact: According to SINTEF Information and Communication Technology, more than 90% of all the digital information globally has been created in the past two years! By 2019, Cisco estimates data created by IoT devices will be 269 times greater than all the data collected to date around the globe (Cisco Global Cloud Index Forecast and Methodology, 2014-2019). The economic impact alone will be $14.4 trillion. And beyond pure numbers, IoT’s impact also includes significant gains in technical experiences, innovation, efficiencies and assets.

So much data: Today, an oil rig with 30,000 sensors collecting data might examine and use just 1% of that data for real-time control and anomaly protection. The plethora of data collected everywhere is rarely being used for optimization or prediction. But being able to harness and use that data is the true promise of IoT.

What standards? Today’s IoT lacks standards and priorities. There are many devices with differing levels of capabilities contributing to the IoT data overload, coming from different form factors with different capabilities. How do companies know what they should connect? How does one assemble the puzzle to create a useful picture? It’s not going to happen overnight, nor will it be cheap.

Bringing it together

Despite the hype, gaining momentum on the mountains of data pouring in via IoT is possible. Like nearly every other IT project, what works best for IoT is starting small and demonstrating the return. That means not attempting to implement the internet of everything, or even the internet of things. Instead, shoot for what I call the “internet of (some) things.”

I’ve worked with enterprise customers implementing mobility solutions around the globe, and no matter how large or how small they are, the same basic IoT advice applies:

Develop a solid business case and work on integrating solutions. Create purposeful boundaries around IoT for deliverable intent and outcomes.

Be specific about the aspect of functional business news. Think directly and analyze the big ideas for your customers, and your lines of business. Do not do this in a vacuum; invite all of the stakeholders to the table, then collaborate and explore opportunities.

Engage your constituents by talking about the efficiencies the business will gain from IoT.

Determine where the biggest value lies. Assess your IoT contributing elements today and determine which are providing data and which are sitting dormant. Gain visibility into these components and give the IoT initiatives a boost.

Be aware that all of the dots you’ll need to connect will not be the same. Some pieces of IoT come at different paces and have different goals. Integrating some elements will be a far greater challenge than others.

Think about and plan which things should be connected to other things. Roadmap your plans and then start in one area, gain proof points and continue moving forward. When you are ready to add more elements, data and things at a later date, it will be much easier to achieve buy in.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.