The potential of the Internet of Things is fueling a lot of interest (and hype) all across media and industry,” writes Sam Ransbotham (@Ransbotham), an associate professor of information systems at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. “But we aren’t ready.” That assessment should worry business leaders because, according to entrepreneur Jason Hope (@JasonHope), the Internet of Things (IoT) is going to mature rapidly. “Ask the average person on the street what the Internet of Things is,” he writes, “and chances are you will get a look of confusion. While those of us in the tech industry clearly know what IoT is, the term is not yet a household name. I believe 2016 will be the year that connected technology becomes a household term, but perhaps not with the term Internet of Things.” Theo Priestley (@ITredux), a self-proclaimed technology evangelist, provides a few of the predictions that have been made about the Internet of Things:
- Big data analytics for IOT software revenues will experience strong growth, reaching $81 billion by 2022 says Strategy Analytics
- Smart Cities will use 1.6 billion connected things in 2016 says Gartner
- By 2025 IOT will be a $1.6 trillion opportunity in Healthcare alone says McKinsey
- 50 billion+ connected devices will exist by 2020 says Cisco
- Data captured by IOT connected devices will top 1.6 zettabytes in 2020 says ABI Research
- There are 10 major factions fighting to become the interoperating standard for IOT
The point is that IoT is going to be big — really big. Ransbotham states, “We are attracted to, and ready for, the insights that will likely come. But being ready for the benefits isn’t the same as being ready for the associated changes.” If your curiosity is piqued about what some of those changes might entail, Lisa Morgan (@lisamorgan), a marketing strategist, lists a few of them.
- Data volumes are going to explode. Morgan writes, “The organizations embracing IoT devices [will] see exponential increases in the amount of available data.” How much data? “If the predictions are to be believed,” Priestley writes, “there is no way that current analytical solutions will be able to manage that level of information across that size of connected landscape.” Little wonder, then, that Ransbotham believes most companies are not ready for the IoT.
- Data collection and distribution practices are going to need rethinking. “IoT devices allow organizations to collect more information than they need,” Morgan writes. “Therefore, companies should think about how they’re going to collect the information and how much they need to store in their own systems versus the cloud.”
- The mix of data types may evolve. Data will still be categorized as structured or unstructured; but, Morgan sees a dramatic increase in the availability of video data. “Cameras are everywhere,” she writes, “but the data isn’t necessarily being combined with other sorts of data. Despite technological advances, security guards are still watching banks of computer screens to determine whether the surveillance cameras have captured any anomalous activity. That sort of use case is ripe for IoT device assistance.” Priestley goes one step further. “All solutions in the immediate future,” he writes, “will require artificial intelligence capabilities.”
- Insights will be generated much faster than in the past. Thanks to artificial intelligence (specifically cognitive computing) actionable insights are going to be generated at computer speed (i.e., real-time or near-real-time). Mark Jacobsohn, SVP of Booz Allen Hamilton, “One of the things companies need to think about is real-time and near real-time data streaming in from more places than it was before,” said. “The IoT allows us to apply data science and approaches to big data in areas that we haven’t been able to do before.”
- Context will be king. Morgan explains, “Some IoT devices provide contextual information that is absolutely necessary for predictive maintenance, controlling traffic flow, and marketing more effectively to consumers, for example. With it, organizations can understand why humans and machines behave differently in one context versus another.”
- Data ownership issues are going to increase. “IoT devices generate a lot of data,” Morgan writes, “but who owns the data, and who should have access it? The device manufacturer? A service provider? The owner of the IoT device? Other third parties? The answer may depend on the device, the information it generates, who requires the information and for what purpose, privacy and security issues, and the environment in which the device is operating.” This will become a particularly sticky issue in the area of healthcare.
- Data governance needs to be revisited. Morgan explains, “The whole discussion about collecting, storing, securing, processing, analyzing, and using data needs to be revisited when contemplating a move to the IoT. Given the volume of data IoT devices generate, a lot of data-related concerns will need to be dealt with in an automated fashion, such as what data should be retained or acted upon, and who has access to the data and for what purpose.”
- Privacy issues will also increase. Privacy and data ownership are closely related. Even when individuals don’t own data, they will expect their privacy to be honored. “The IoT is enabling companies to collect more information and more detailed information about people, places, and things than ever before,” Morgan writes. “Companies should understand what privacy policies are in place now and how the IoT may impact those policies.”
- Machine learning will be necessary. As noted above, Priestley believes that artificial intelligence will be required in all IoT solutions. While Morgan believes that machine learning will provide valuable help in analyzing IoT-collected data, Priestley believes that companies will have to go beyond that. He asserts, “SAP, Oracle, IBM, Cisco and all the rest who have an analytics platform [in] play will have to invest in A.I. research, acquire and finally emerge with solutions based on methods beyond machine learning.”
- A business case for IoT adoption will still need to be made. “The adoption of IoT devices can be as pointless as other types of technology investments,” Morgan writes. “When purchases are made in the absence of a business purpose, companies struggle to realize the value of their investments.” Just because something is novel or cool, doesn’t mean that it has business role to play.
- Organizational agility will be critical. Evolution has taught us that the species that survive are not necessarily the biggest or strongest but those which can adapt most readily. The same is true with businesses. “Businesses are under pressure to realize value from data quickly,” Morgan writes. “Given the real-time nature of IoT devices and the complexity of the infrastructure, nimbleness is necessary to continuously drive value.”
- New business opportunities will emerge. “Like mobile devices,” writes Morgan, “the IoT enables new business opportunities that are powered by a combination of the devices, sensors, software, and data mashups. We’re already seeing the seeds of such innovation in fitness devices, smart cities, and smart cars.” Comcast is an example of how the business world is changing. Originally, Comcast saw itself as the provider of content (i.e., a cable television provider). Comcast now has more broadband subscribers than cable subscribers and now correctly describes itself as a broadband company.
- Entire industries are likely to be disrupted. The internet had a profound impact on the print media and music industries. The IoT is likely to result in even more industry disruptions. Morgan points to the restaurant and bar sector as one area where the supply chain could be vastly improved as result of IoT solutions. Adam Robinson, who oversees the overall marketing strategy for Cerasis, suggests nearly a dozen ways that the IoT will improve supply chain operations. They are: revenue growth; asset utilization; waste reduction; customer service; profitability; sustainability; security; risk mitigation; working capital deployment; agility; and equipment uptime.
- Despite all its benefits, the IoT is not a silver bullet. “The IoT has a lot of maturing to do before it reaches its full potential,” Morgan writes. “There is a lot of standards work to do; industries have yet to imagine the potential; and there are many technical challenges to solve.”
Ransbotham concludes, “There are a lot more changes coming with the IoT transformation than many people may recognize.” Priestley adds, “Only by investing in artificial intelligence, rather than stopping short at machine learning platforms and algorithms (remember; algorithms are self-contained and can therefore by definition never be intelligent or truly adaptive to its environment to maximize success) will organizations and the world of the Internet Of Things realize the full potential. Even the current darling of analytics, predictive analytics, just isn’t enough to harness the information deluge, providing basic automated actions within processes based on correlation.”
 Sam Ransbotham, “Ready or Not, Here IoT Comes,” MIT Sloan Management Review, 22 December 2015.
 Jason Hope, “4 Predictions for the Internet of Things in 2016,” Tech.co, 21 December 2015.
 Theo Priestley, “A Series Of Unfortunate Tech Predictions – Artificial Intelligence and IOT are inseparable,” Forbes, 8 December 2015.
 Lisa Morgan, “14 Ways IoT Will Change Big Data and Business Forever,” InformationWeek, 14 December 2014.
 Adam Robinson, “11 Improvements by the Deployment of the Internet of Things in the Supply Chain,” Cerasis, 5 October 2015.