Two years ago there was excitement in the air about the impact of Internet of Things (IoT) on the consumer market and how it was positioned to take hold in the business world. In 2014, we could finally run our house from our smartphone, with immediate alerts when the temperature spiked, the dog ventured into the wrong room, or someone was at the front door.  The last 24 months has led to many new developments with true business impact from IoT.  Has that translated to a business offering at your company?  There are still skeptics and some questions that exist in the world of IoT, but the current 10 billion devices in existence (per Verizon) should be enough evidence to get you interested.  I’m left asking myself if our entire world will be full of sensors and IoT devices within 10 years. What type of new business will develop? And which ones will drift off into the sunset?  There are still those concerns with IoT revolving around stability, cost and security that need to be addressed.  Are those concerns real?  Let’s explore the evolution of this technology in more detail and where things are heading.

Before we go any further, let’s talk about those projections again. Google, Cisco, Dell, GE, Verizon and many others are heavily investing in IoT.   Analysts and technology companies, specifically Verizon, believe there will be 30 billion IoT devices deployed by 2020, over doubling the current total of IoT devices in the next four years.  According to a recent report by Verizon, they are projecting a $1.3 trillion spend with IoT by 2019.  Do I have your attention now?

History of Internet of Things

Let’s take a quick jaunt back in history to look at the birth of IoT. There is much discussion on who, what, where, when and why the term originated, but it is estimated that IoT hit the market at roughly the turn of the century.  In the early development, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags were considered the foundation or platform for IoT.  However, this technology didn’t require the Internet to transport data.  At roughly the turn of the century, LG invented and launched an IP enabled refrigerator, which was the start of many things to come with true Internet transport as the platform.

So, you ask, “Why did it take IoT so long to take hold?” The answer isn’t just one thing, however, the cloud developments in the last 24 months, along with new IoT standards, has allowed businesses to reinvent themselves in many ways. So, fast forwarding to 2016, we now have many IoT solutions being developed; for example, vehicle manufacturers offering new experiences capturing and acting on human interactions, the agriculture business developing products to determine and report if pests are attacking crops, etc.…

Now let’s address some of the concerns with IoT that were mentioned earlier. Is IoT becoming more stable?  Can I rely on consistent and repeatable use of this technology in my business?  The short answer is it depends.  Although many companies are rapidly deploying new solutions, there are still questions about the stability and reliability with Internet transport to guaranty business class service levels for products.  For example, do I have the necessary infrastructure with my rural Internet connectivity to run my farm?  Can I dispense medicine, provide soil samples, and request feed delivery automatically?  These time sensitive issues have limited the use of IoT in agriculture today, although, some solutions have made it to the market and many proof-of-concept solutions are underway.

Cost

What about the cost of IoT? Yes, that’s been a concern as well.  Depending on the business, there might be significant cost to deploy IoT technology.  All the components involved in an IoT deployment can create significant cost structures that might not drive a return-on-investment (ROI) that is appealing.  Cost must be thoroughly analyzed with proof-of-concept deployments to verify feasibility and validate the ROI.

Security

But the most important concern in IoT is with the security and threats that exist today. The thought of someone having full access to connect to a vehicle and turn it off, adjust the navigation, or intercept data on routes and driver statistics can be exciting or scary depending on who has taken access.  There are plenty of examples on the Internet to cite, but I won’t waste your time regurgitating them as a rudimentary search of your own produce plenty of results.  That said, a solid security framework and strategy should allow the necessary controls to overcome your security concerns.

To summarize, IoT is here to stay and if your business hasn’t started the journey, it may be left behind and eventually become irrelevant. It’s worth the time to build a strategy for your business, even if that means waiting for another year or two based on the ROI projections or other factors.  Just remember, spend some time to address stability, cost and security in your planning.

If you’re interested in learning more or need assistance with your IOT strategy, please contact RSM’s technology consulting professionals at 800.274.3978 or email us. To learn more, read our article “Leveraging new technology to enhance business insights” or listen to our webcast series around Third Platform technologies including big data and the IoT.