Saturday, April 11, 2015

Talking Toilets - And The Internet Of Things

How long does it take you to learn about a malfunctioning piece of equipment at your company? How much money do you lose while each device is inoperable?

What if your systems could indicate by themselves when they were malfunctioning or, even better yet, notify you when they are about to have a problem?

With the latest trend in information technology, that notification may become a reality - and a lot sooner than you may think.

It's called the "Internet of Things," and through the magic of WI-Fi, your machines and devices will be able to "talk" with you - and even with each other!

How Big Could This Get?

According to a report from the McKinsey Institute, the eventual connecting of billions of ordinary devices to the Internet will add between $2.7 trillion and $6.2 trillion a year to the global economy by 2025. General Electric, on the other hand, estimates that the "Industrial Internet" will boost global GDP by $15.3 trillion in 2030.

"Talking" Toilets?

You might be concerned that this particular advancement in technology may come too soon and too fast. Tom Petrocelli of CMSWire, an online magazine, would agree with you. "Some devices should never be Internet enabled," says Petrocelli. "The idea of an Internet enabled toilet - and yes, such a thing has been demonstrated - is truly horrifying. Where will humanity be able to get a few minutes of peace from the relentless shrill cry of the advertisers and salespeople if everything that a person can possibly own is connected to the internet with a salesperson?"

Enabling Better Service and Support

Yet the Internet of Things could bring a big benefit in the area of service and support, for those devices that may currently be keeping you up at night, in three key ways, says Petrocelli:

• They will make service and support available right from the product. The device (and the company that makes it) helps to initiate the service request and doesn't have to wait for the owner to go looking for some way to contact the service center.

• Embedded service capabilities will gather information critical to the problem and send it directly to the people who can fix the problem. Wouldn't it be great if, when a car gets an engine light, the trouble code plus relevant information could be sent directly to a service center for evaluation without the owner having to bring the car in?

• Service will become more proactive. Who wouldn't want to get a call from a service technician telling you that the funny noise the washing machine is making will soon turn into a major problem that can be averted?

IoT Can Bring Real Business Value

With the Internet of Things, "this is where you add real business value," says Robert Stroud, vice president of innovation and strategy at CA Technologies. "Where an IT person is not just running machines anymore, but fundamentally taking good information and helping the business make true business decisions so that they can adjust the business in real time based on this information. If used well, you'll be able to spot trends and opportunities far faster than you could in the past."

But, just like with social media, privacy will be a critical factor in the evolution of the Internet of Things. According to ISACA's 2013 IT Risk/Reward Barometer report, consumers are concerned about hackers accessing their information (like with the recent department store heist of credit card information). On the other hand, most IT professionals surveyed believe consumers should instead be concerned with the analysts who will be accessing their information and how they will use the data once it is collected.

Big Data Can Bring Big Challenges

Will businesses be ready to reap the rewards of the Internet of Things?

"Businesses tend to be organized into functional teams," says technology expert Brian Proffitt. "Each of these teams has a separate and distinct function: purchasing, logistics, accounts payable, accounts receivable, marketing, sales-useful processes that for the most part don't work together except on a transactional basis.

The influx of data from the Internet of Things (and, really, any big data implementation) can easily disrupt the team-based business model. Information from the Internet of Things will be huge and potentially actionable at an incredibly fast pace. It's just not clear that business is going to be ready to keep up."

By Ted Janusz

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