Internet of Things (IoT) – Hype or Not?


Over the last few months the term internet of things (IoT) has become very popular and used to describe all sorts of services and products. So, what is the definition of the internet of things?

Wikipedia defines the Internet of Things (IoT) as the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and connectivity which enable these objects to connect and exchange data. We could expand the definition to include the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

As the IoT technology improves, organisations will need to develop strategies to incorporate IoT in their IT and business strategies. These technologies will be able to deliver real qualitative and quantitative business benefits thereby supporting the organisations business strategy. Initial discussions I have had with COO’s and CTO’s revealed a wait and see attitude rather than an openness to gain an understanding of the value IoT could bring to the business environment. Value in the form of greater control, efficiency and cost saving.

As a business strategy advisor, I began to think of how the current wireless IoT sensors in the SA market can deliver business benefits now.  Here are some examples:

  • Temperature – reduce cost by lowering power consumption or improve efficiency of heating and cooling systems by being able to measure temperatures over a wide area. Proper temperature control in cold storage warehouses, trucks and fridges reduces health risks and protects the value of products e.g. fresh produce, meat and medication.
  • Power – improve up-time through early warning of failures, and data on the cause of failure will save maintenance costs by being able to dispatch the right technician, e.g. an electrician for power failures and a technician for equipment failures. IoT sensors can monitor power quality and monitor consumption for billing purposes.
  • Smoke – an always-on smoke detector provides the assurance that a building is protected, and any loss could be limited through early warning. It reduces the need, time and cost of testing smoke detectors. Defective smoke detectors will be identified on the day of failure and replaced immediately.
  • Door contact – enable the monitoring and control of access to mission critical areas, for example, server rooms, data centres and high value areas. Can be linked to a temperature sensor as often temperature variances are caused by open doors.
  • Occupancy – determining the use of meeting rooms and office space could be translated into savings in commercial rentals. Data on occupancy can determine working habits of employees as well as facility efficient sharing of office space.
  • Asset tracking – tracking high value moveable assets could reduce the risk of loss and thereby reduce the cost of insurance.

In addition to functionality of the sensors, a further benefit would be derived from sensors that have no wires, use less power and have a low bit rate in terms of data consumption.

I believe that CEO’s, COO’s and CTO’s must view IoT solutions through the lens of solving a business problem. In this way there will be a business case for adopting IoT solutions and the organisation will realise quantitative financial benefits. We can assist business executives develop solutions using IoT sensors, build a viable business case for adoption and identify appropriate technology to implement.