The buzz: Internet of Things gives machines something to talk about

Connecting "things" like vending machines and streetlamps to the Web can save companies time and money. But there are downsides, too.

The Internet of Things is the term popularly used to describe the ability of machinery and other devices to "talk" to one another and send data to IT systems over the Web. An example of machine-to-machine, or M2M, is communication. The IoT is made possible by inexpensive sensor technology, such as radio frequency identification chips, and widespread Wi-Fi and cellular networks. The connections can be used to gather real-time information on the performance and condition of wind turbines, generators, vehicles, streetlights or even household appliances, regardless of where the devices are located.

The buzz: Connecting "things" to the Web can make available data that was previously hard to get. It can save organizations cash by cutting down on travel to service devices in the field -- and even enable preventive maintenance on equipment. Utilities can use the Internet to monitor data from connected meters, eliminating the need for in-person checkups. And manufacturers can remotely track and perform maintenance on machinery in multiple plants.

The reality: The Internet of Things is limited by wireless connectivity. Network disruptions could have devastating results: For example, incomplete data could spoil the stock of trucks carrying refrigerated medicines. Also, collecting and managing all that data can be a challenge. Then there are security risks. Strong data security and disaster recovery procedures are imperative. Other, more direct human losses are possible as field technicians who service machines find their hours reduced or eliminated. After populating the Internet with things, people might find themselves outnumbered.

Vending Machine - Internet of Things

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Next Steps

Find an introduction to M2M technology

Learn about cloud's role in M2M

Read Cisco's predictions for M2M adoption

Dig Deeper on Internet of Things (IoT) in Manufacturing