It is a pretty familiar scene, that of the classic morning routine of the future. A person wakes up, gets out of bed, and walks over to their window. As they gaze out at their city skyline, a hologram hovering somewhere in the sky informs them of the weather. Other floating projections display the morning news, their itinerary for the day, and whatever else may be relevant to that person at that time.
After updating themselves sufficiently, they head over to their closet and virtually try on a few different outfits in a matter of seconds, finally settling on one they are happy with. As they continue to prepare for the day, all the mundane necessities which humans previously had to do manually now operate automatically, leaving the person more time to do something of importance before they embark out the door.
Anyone who has seen more than a few science fiction movies can attest to the frequency in which a scene such as this starts off a film, setting the tone for the viewer that this is a world far more advanced than our own. And while the average person might still believe this type of world only exists in some far off future, those in the tech industry know we are far closer than most would imagine. In fact, as the powerful concept of the Internet of Things continues to establish itself as the definitive topic of discussion and enquiry among the tech world, we may very well be on the cusp of such a world becoming a reality.
IOT CARS AND SELFIE FRIDGES
The Internet of Things is an idea which is quite simple in its essence, but extremely complicated when one delves into the details. The main idea of IoT is this: eventually, every physical object in our world which exhibits any sort of variation or movement will be connected to the Internet. This will allow physical objects to transmit and receive information, permitting their normal affairs and maintenance to run automatically. This in turn would increase the efficiency and reduce the time needed, cost, and errors of virtually every occurrence and event in our modern world. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
For those that are still confused, imagine a highway where every car on the road is digitally communicating with every other car, constantly updating their current location to ensure that there is never a single accident. Elon Musk’s Tesla is following that approach with the so called <a href=”https://blogmitcnc.org/2014/08/21/the-tesla-iot-car-case-study/”>IoT car</a>. Or imagine a refrigerator that knows when it is out of lunchmeat and automatically notifies a grocery delivery service that it will need more by noon the next day. Industry giant Bosch made the first step in their Home Connect program with a refrigerator that takes selfies of its contents. In the next step that will be combined with an Augmented Reality app.
These are just a couple of everyday scenarios illustrating the unlimited potential of a worldwide connection between the physical universe and the Internet. And while they undoubtedly sound futuristic, the numbers show that our world is irreversibly heading in the direction of connection. Last year alone, an estimated $698.6 billion dollars was spent by businesses on the Internet of Things. By 2019, this number is expected to reach upwards of $1.3 trillion. According to Cisco’s Trend Report, the amount of connected devices exceeded the amount of connected people in the year 2008. Currently the number of connected devices stands at around 13.4 billion, and is expected to reach somewhere between 30 and 50 billion by the year 2020. These numbers are outstanding, and although 87% of consumers still haven’t heard the term Internet of Things yet, they represent a growing tidal wave in the business world which will certainly crash into major markets once circumstances and timing permit.
Considering forecasts, such as GE’s, which predicted the rising presence of connected machines in industry will add as much as 15 trillion dollars to the global GDP over the next 20 years, it is no surprise many businesses are fervently adapting their business models to be harmonious with the Internet of Things. This convergence of machines, data, and analytics is being dubbed the fourth Industrial Revolution, or “Industry 4.0”, and every major Internet company from IBM and Cisco to Google and Microsoft are competing to be the main provider of the platform which makes this convergence possible. The positive effects for businesses constantly connected to their products, customers and manufacturing hardware are quite apparent, including benefits such as increased operational efficiency, faster decision making, better customer relationships, and a larger potential for correspondence between different parts of the company. Ultimately, all these benefits culminate into a “smarter” industry in which every aspect of the supply chain operates with a greater sense of ease and efficiency.
BECOMING “IOT READY”
There are essentially four different elements of the IoT process which companies must incorporate into their infrastructure to truly achieve the status of an “Industry 4.0” company.
1. Implementation of “connectedness” capabilities
This is done by implanting sensors, processors, or any other technologies which allow data to be exchanged between the product and its environment. In support of their IoT platform, Bosch Software Innovations advertises that in 2013 they shipped out more than one billion of their MEMS sensors which are designed with this type of information exchange in mind. Bosch also has the upper-hand in this area since they are already a leading manufacturer of electronic products.