Last month we published a piece called “The Cloud Computing Storm,” all about empty, emotive clichés surrounding the cloud, which offer very little to the public’s understanding of a growing, increasingly prevalent virtual platform. The Internet of Things, however, is a phrase with a rather more curious tone to it. One of those buzz-phrases that surrounds cloud computing, the Internet of Things is frustratingly ambiguous, and devilishly modern-sounding – and in the business world, modern and new usually equates to intriguing. So just what is the Internet of Things? What does it mean for the modern business? And where does the cloud fit into the equation?
Simply put, the Internet of Things is the concept of an integrated network, which enables the exchange of data between electronic devices of any description. Potentially, every device becomes compatible with everything else – and we mean literally everything, from your smartphone to the lightbulbs in your house. The functionality of one device can be linked to the stimulus of another – for example, being able to control the heating in your house from an external device, one that could even be on the other side of the world.
What does this mean for the business sphere? Firstly, this network is predicted to grow very rapidly – Gartner forecast that 6.4 billion devices will be connected in 2016 (up 30% from the previous year), with a longer-term forecast of 20.8 billion by 2020. It is hence important to get to grips with these matters now. Don’t be left behind as the network continues its upward trend. But what functions does it physically offer? In one sense, it is impossible to pinpoint that issue exactly; the possibilities are endless. However, it is possible – even likely – that many companies will adjust their business models accordingly, since information can be collated and transmitted far more efficiently; the transfer of data will become as important as the transfer of products. Communication, critical to any enterprise, will be streamlined further than ever before. Market research, for instance, becomes far more efficient when consumer feedback can be collated via sensors that transmit back into the cloud.
Ah yes, the cloud. Where does the cloud come into all this? The answer to that is easy: cloud offers the only viable platform for the Internet of Things to develop in the long term. No other kind of platform can tender the flexible virtual environment that it requires to access devices at any time in any location, the potential to scale up rapidly according to its technical requirements, or the consistent, reliable ability to analyse the big data which is its lifeblood in the first place. Crucially, the cloud will offer superior security to any other server. The relationship is mutually beneficial as well: we believe the capacity for innovation that the Internet of Things presents will lead to more ambitious start-ups, offering new products and services. This in turn will draw business owners to the cloud desktop, for its pay-as-you-go structure and the immediate access to sophisticated, up-to-date applications.
There was an episode of Doctor Who back in 2006 which portrayed a parallel universe in which all pieces of electronic equipment were compatible with each other – and the entrepreneur who created the network for this became the richest and most powerful man on Earth. Yes, it turned out to be part of a plot to turn the human race into cyborgs, but that’s beside the point. The Internet of Things is an immensely powerful tool that, hand in hand with the cloud, is set to transform international commerce. Grasp it now; profit from it later.