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Invisible IoT: Why you shouldn't have to think about the Internet of Things

While the hype around the Internet of Things (IoT) might seem deafening for early adopters and those in the tech industry, it is an unfamiliar term to most consumers. In a poll from Acquity Group, 87% of people polled had never heard of IoT.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

IoT doesn’t need to be consciously embraced by consumers to succeed. In fact, the more unobtrusive IoT is for consumers, the more successful it will become. Businesses across industries have harnessed the power of IoT to create value-added services that enhance our lives in ways that aren’t totally obvious to the average consumer. Already, many of the things we interact with on a daily basis are connected, yet the connection and solutions that enable the services we enjoy remain invisible to us. And often times it is this behind-the-scenes, inconspicuous nature of IoT that lends it such success and potential. Let’s take a look at three areas where the power of invisible IoT is exemplified.

Invisible IoT in automotive

The number of cars connected to the Internet is expected to increase six-fold by 2020, and millions of people are already benefitting from IoT in the car today. Automakers are working behind the scenes to ensure consumers spend more time on the road and less time in the shop. New remote diagnostic and maintenance capabilities make it possible to identify potential issues and address them proactively before they require a visit to the mechanic. Via connected cars, auto manufacturers can push software updates over the air — which could reduce the number of recall-initiated shop visits by 70%.

In 2014 more than 60 million vehicles were recalled in the U.S., double the annual record in 2004. There have been several large software-based recalls in the last 10 years, and they often result in millions of vehicles recalled each time. With IoT, those recalls may largely become things of the past. The average recall costs the car owner hours of time at the mechanic to resolve. Connected car owners are spared from that waste of time, not to mention the accompanying frustration.

Invisible IoT in retail

Retailers too have been unlocking the value of IoT, utilizing IoT’s real-time analytics to better serve consumers. Have you ever walked up to a vending machine only to find out that the slot designated for your favorite soda or snack was empty? With IoT, disappointing moments like that are drastically reduced. IoT-enabled vending machines not only automatically send notifications when an item is running low, they also actively manage inventory, helping vending companies to plan their distribution routes, keep stock fresh and reduce waste. As a consumer, you don’t need to know what’s happening behind the scenes — you just get to enjoy your favorite snack, whenever you want.

IoT-enabled sensors also allow retailers to remotely monitor their inventory in real-time and receive automatic alerts when stocks need to be replenished, leading to greater inventory accuracy. With a majority of retail sales still taking place in physical stores, retailers are looking to make their stores smarter to enhance the shopper’s experience. By tagging individual items, retailers are enhancing the in-store experience by ensuring that the most popular retail items remain in stock. You don’t have to download an app or interact with the “smart” store at all — all the consumer sees is that when they walk into their favorite store, the popular items they are looking for are in stock.

Invisible IoT in cities and towns

Cities and towns are harnessing the power of IoT to improve the quality of life in our communities through safety, sustainability, efficiency and cleanliness. Connected traffic lights are reducing congestion, sensors monitor foot traffic in key areas to better enable crowd control, and smart meters are enabling better distribution and monitoring of critical resources.

As more cities adopt IoT, residents will become the beneficiaries of a connected city in which traffic congestion is reduced, commutes are shorter, transportation is more efficient and streets are cleaner and safer. A recent Juniper Research report on smart cities forecasted that connected traffic management alone will reduce cumulative global CO2 emissions by 164 MMT (million metric tonnes) between 2014 and 2019, equivalent to the annual emissions produced by 35 million vehicles. And with a projected 700 million cars on city roads by 2019, IoT-driven intelligent traffic management has immense potential to favorably impact commute times in cities across the world. Meanwhile, city dwellers will likely have little to no idea how all these improvements are being made. This is the value of IoT’s invisibility.


This invisible IoT power does have a parallel in the history of computers. In 1980, scientist Mark Weiser coined the term “ubiquitous computing,” referring to the idea that computers would eventually be everywhere and anywhere, yet invisible. Similar to the mass acceptance of computers, IoT’s unobtrusive nature and tremendous value-add has enabled it to spread and gain massive adoption in the enterprise as a way to enhance customers’ experience while driving new revenue growth and for consumers. And with a projected 5.5 million new things added every day — and a subsequent growth in services delivered via these connected devices — one measure of IoT’s ongoing success will be whether or not it can remain invisible while providing this added value to both enterprises and consumers.

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.