With the advances of chatbots, wearables and smart devices, it seems like a good time to cover some of the basics and talk about the power (and perils) of connectivity.

When we say the IoT, the majority of people either don’t get the idea of what it is or associate it simply with WIFI-enabled devices (ie. an Ecobee thermostat or an Echodot). Although you would not be incorrect, there is more to the Internet of Things than just the simple machine-to-machine data transmission. Surprisingly, the term “Internet of Things,” coined by British entrepreneur Kevin Ashton in 1999, still has no single, universally-accepted definition. Perhaps one of the best definitions, however, is: “the extension of network connectivity and computing capability to objects, devices, sensors, and items not ordinarily considered to be computers. These objects require minimal human intervention to generate, exchange, and consume data; they often feature connectivity to remote data collection, analysis, and management capabilities.”  Broadly, it is all about coupling real world data to smart devices.

It is no longer science fiction to have a world in which every appliance in your house, vehicle and workplace are linked. In the business environment, IoT sensors in a multitude of settings can contribute data to analytics systems that can do everything from reporting on road conditions and traffic patterns to telling you about malfunctioning components in a manufacturing plant. Health monitoring can occur in real time for many conditions and activities, sending these reports to medical personnel for treatment adjustments.

The Internet of Things is effectively a giant network of connected “stuff”, which also includes people. The relationships are between people-people, people-things and things-things. To fully achieve this, a combination of four criteria is required – unique identification, mobility, sensors and radio frequency identifiers. Notably, the real value is at the crossing of collecting data and actions. There must be a framework employed to assess it in real time. Cloud-centered applications are vital to translate and transfer the data hailing from all these tags and/or sensors to applications that can respond or react to that data or inputs.

So What?

The “So What?” is recognizing the possibilities. Many have heard about all of the great chatbot work that Cambria’s Solution Center is doing, but that is only one component of connecting people-things.  With the Internet of Things catching on, it’s not hard to imagine an explosion of new, connected products as well. For example, think of the benefits to the health community. With IoT, the possibility of developing life-saving products increases tenfold. What about a heart monitor that alerts an ambulance when someone goes into cardiac arrest? Or an insulin syringe that senses the need for another dose and administers it automatically?

Awesome, Right? What Could Go Wrong?

The IoT explosion won’t be without risk. Risks are especially relevant in vehicle safety, healthcare and supply chains. Hackers could potentially take over and steer vehicles and vulnerabilities within the health care system. Risk could also include manipulating health and safety devices, like drug-infusion pump dosage levels, heart monitors and defibrillators. Supply chains can also be compromised, as IoT devices consist of components manufactured and assembled from locations around the world. In addition, the risk that adversaries could spread disinformation within networks to disrupt processes and operations should not be underestimated.

But, risks aside, imagining the possibilities of the Internet of Things is imagining a future in which sensors and devices do all the work, and people reap the benefits of a wealth of data unimaginable today. For our clients, the Internet of Things is a gateway to higher efficiency, lower costs and invaluable insights. If IoT is as big as predicted, we should be seeing some major changes in the fundamental way we do business in the coming years.