One of the things I find fascinating about the future of machine to machine (M2M) and internet of things (IoT) technology is that so many people are often focused on the technology, rather than its application to real-world business problems. As with many developing technologies, M2M and IoT have created considerable buzz, with Cisco Systems projecting more than 50 billion connected devices over the next 5 years. In fact, there are already more connected devices than people! And as a friend in the UK recently quipped: “It’s like high school sex – a lot of people are talking about it, but nobody’s really doing it.” I love that analogy!
So where are we headed with IoT? For me, at least, it’s about using the technology to solve real problems and that have a quantifiable return on investment. A simple case in point: if a smart vending machine can monitor its inventory for every type of soft drink it holds, the machine can then “call” for service only when predetermined low thresholds are achieved. Why would we have a delivery driver stop by to check a machine, if the machine knows it doesn’t need service? That would waste time and money. On the other hand, if the machine has plenty of inventory but the dollar bill acceptor or credit/debit card reader is not functioning, that will mean lost sales, costing the company money. So we definitely want the machine to notify us about the problem. In either case, M2M communication is happening behind the scenes, with no need for human interaction.
And when I’m shopping at a shoe store and pick up a shoe I’m interested in, it’s pretty cool to see a video pop up with features about the shoe. And of course the retailer will certainly want to know which shoes have seen the most interest, in order to adjust presentation options and plan future purchases. We humans can benefit from including this additional information in our management decision-making. Whether it results in cost reduction, an additional revenue opportunity or combination of the two, using IoT to provide a solution to a real business problem just makes sense.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I love to see dazzling new technology that is really sexy and cool. But what is really cool is finding an application for our personal life or business that will save money, improve service or help us make more money in the future. That’s WAY-cool!