For communications service providers, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications as part of the Internet of Things (IoT) is already an enticing prospect, with a potential role in connecting the billions of devices that will be part of this vast network. Likewise, most technology companies, whether involved in hardware, software, or systems, are formulating a playbook for IoT, across one or more pieces of the value chain from sensors and chips, through middleware and platforms, to applications and analytics. For the majority of enterprises, however, while there is an awareness of basic IoT principles, there is not yet much momentum in their application to business processes, or as a significant source of innovation. This means that the IoT is not keeping many CIOs awake at night, but this is likely to change quickly as the technology and associated applications mature.
Most business technology still operates at one level of remove. For example, source data either originates manually and is converted to a digital format, or increasingly, it is passed from one information system to another via an agreed interchange format. At a fundamental level, the IoT changes this by connecting the artifacts of the physical world, be they buildings, equipment, manufactured goods, natural environment, or human beings, directly to the digital processes that now comprise much of business activity. As part of digital transformation initiatives, business and technology executives should re-examine core business processes in this light, as well as seek new opportunities for innovation using IoT technologies.
Early-adopter application areas have included transport and smart cities, but even here, a recent survey on behalf of Vodafone UK indicated that most city officials are unaware of the potential contribution the technology could make to traffic management, parking, street lighting, or garbage collection. Sentiment is also impacted by issues of security and data privacy, with the president of the British Computer Society recently warning of the risk that connected devices post to civil liberties. These concerns are perfectly valid, and security will be a critical component of IoT architectures, but this should not deter organizations from exploring the potential use cases across their business processes and business models.
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