Let’s Unpack the Internet-of-Things and How It Affects Businesses
The IoT platform space is important, but crowded and confusing. How do you go about finding one that is right for your business?
There’s huge hype when it comes to the Internet-of-Things and how cars are talking to other cars, and buildings to other buildings. Data’s flowing from nearly everything with a digital brain and thanks to the interconnectivity offered by the Internet, companies are able to glean deep insights on what people like and don’t like about particular products and services.
But, to accurately derive facts on what customers want or don’t want (using IoT), you need a sensible, usable IoT platform on which to lean on. McKinsey’s experts say that to unlock value from the Internet-of-Things, it helps to have a platform on which to create and manage applications, to run analytics, and to store and secure your data.
“Like an operating system for a laptop, an IoT platform does a lot of things in the background that makes life easier and less expensive for your developers, managers, and users.” – McKinsey
A walk down memory lane
“Networked devices predate the term ‘Internet-of-Things’,” says Chris Nolter at TheStreet. “Going all the way back to a toaster that was connected to the Internet back in 1990, more and more utilities and trucking and logistics companies are connecting their machines and assets to various systems and to each other.” He says the phrase: The Internet-of-Things was coined back in 1999.
Dataversity adds that one of the earliest examples of an Internet-of-Things business play hails from the early 1980s: “There was a Coca Cola machine, located at the Carnegie Melon University. Local programmers would connect by Internet to the refrigerated appliance to check to see if there was a drink available, and if it was cold, before making the trip.”
The bearing of IoT on businesses today
The Internet-of-Things has evolved into a system using multiple technologies that range from Internet to wireless communication (Wi-Fi) and from micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) to embedded systems. Traditional fields of automation (including the automation of buildings and homes), wireless sensor networks, GPS, control systems, and others, all support the IoT.
“Simply stated, the Internet-of-Things consists of any device with an on/off switch connected to the Internet,” says IoT expert, Keith Foote. “This includes almost anything you can think of, ranging from smartphones to building maintenance to the jet engine of an airplane.”
Imagine medical devices like heart rate monitor implants or a chip transponder in a farm animal that is able to transfer data over a network and are members the IoT. “If it has an off/on switch, then it can, theoretically, be part of the system.”
Identifying your ideal IoT platform
Today, there is no one-size-fits-all best platform for every IoT application. “It may be years before the market anoints the winners in the IoT platform derby,” McKinsey says. “In the meantime, choosing a platform should start with a good understanding of your IoT strategy.”
You need to carefully categorise the kinds of problems you are trying to solve, create a shortlist of likely solutions and user cases, and determine where you will need specialisation on the matter of IoT integration. If you have an idea of what kind of business problem you are solving and where the biggest challenges are, you’ll be able to quickly come to a short list of IoT platforms.
McKinsey says you must consider these key questions when choosing an IoT platform for your enterprise:
- Does the platform have a facility for developing, testing and maintaining multiple applications?
- Does the platform offer compelling pre-written applications to use?
- Can the platform easily connect to your existing digital systems like ERP tools?
A Brief History of the Internet of Things