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The rise of smart machines I The internet of things - Blog

The rise of smart machines I The internet of things

If you’ve read any business or technology blogs lately, you may have encountered the buzz phrase “The Internet of Things”.  This is a trend that is starting to change our world, promising new ways of automating business processes and gathering data that enables us to make better and faster decisions.

If you’ve read any business or technology blogs lately, you may have encountered the buzz phrase “The Internet of Things”.  This is a trend that is starting to change our world, promising new ways of automating business processes and gathering data that enables us to make better and faster decisions.

What is the Internet of Things?

Let’s start with a definition of the Internet of Things: it is basically a network of intelligent devices and machines that can monitor themselves as well as gather contextual information using sensors, and share it with other devices and services. As these machines and devices become smarter, they can potentially even take automated actions – such as an overheating machine shutting itself down before it is damaged.

One example is a vehicle telematics system, which can provide an insurance company with information about your driving behaviour – for example, how often and how hard you break, your driving speed, and your mileage.

Another example is a fitness “wearable”, such as Nike’s Fitness Band. This product tracks your physical activity, and allows you to view a range of graphs and visualisations relevant to your fitness goals on a computer. It also lets you share this information with your friends on social media.

What does it mean for businesses?

Market researcher Gartner projects that the Internet of Things will include 26 billion units installed by 2020, which is an almost 30-fold increase on 2009. These will not just be consumer toys, but also things like plant machinery, fleet vehicles, home automation, building security systems and more.

Businesses will be able to monitor and control these machines from anywhere. That means:

  • More data will be available to make good business decisions.
  • The ability to find new efficiencies – for example, automated triggering of restocking processes on retail shelves.
  • Cost reduction – for example, you could do preventative maintenance if a factory machine alerts you that it is overheating.
  • Better safety and security – for example, detection of gas levels and leakages in industrial environments.

When will it affect my small business?

Many of the applications are still a few years off, but you can already start benefitting from using tools such as vehicle telematics to monitor your cars and drivers. In future, more and more of the devices and machines you use will be in some way connected to the internet, bringing a range of benefits to your business.