Skip to Content
Author's profile photo Richard Howells

The Internet of (EVERY) thing!

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term used to describe an environment in which billions of objects, such as mechanical devices, refrigerators, washers, air conditioners and even industrial production machines, can sense, predict, communicate and share information with each other automatically. These “connected” assets produce data that is regularly collected, analyzed and used to initiate action, and provide business intelligence for planning, logistics, execution and decision making.

This is already a massive business that is estimated to exceed a trillion dollars, and Cisco predicts that there will be 60 billion internet-connected things by 2020. This will provide us with the ultimate “Big Data” challenge, with most of this data coming from inanimate objects dispensing orders for everything, from replenishing vending machines, replacing an oil filter in your car, or rerouting a truck during transit. Whether the thing is a smart shelf, a thermostat, a piece of clothing or an RFID tag, the data will be produced, and we have to adjust our daily life, our business processes and solutions to take advantage of it. So what we are really talking about is “the internet of EVERYTHING.”

The Internet of Home

In the recent announcement on the Apple iOS 8, Apple talked about a new app called homekit  that can communicate with household appliances, making it possible for iPhones to lock doors, adjust lights, set alarms and set temperatures.  Google is also getting in on the action with an upcoming Android release, which is purported to allow two or more devices running the operating system to communicate automatically.

Another example is Kolibree (a French company) who is working on sensors within toothbrushes that will calculate and rate how you brush your teeth, your brushing style, and your thoroughness, and will then provide you with real-time feedback.

The Internet of Health

Today, I wear a fitbit device on my wrist that literally “knows when I am sleeping, and knows when I am awake.”. It can tell me how many steps I have taken, how many miles I have ran, how many calories I have burned and even how well I have slept. In this vein, Apple has announced Healthkit, a platform for collecting health-related data from wearable devices, which is building on the trend started by fitbit, Jawbone Up and other such wearable devices. This will enable you to share key data such as blood pressure and heart rate with your doctor without making a trip and thus start a preventative maintenance program automatically.

Taking this one step further, Proteus Digital Health, a “smart pill” pioneer, has developed the Helius system, powered by an FDA-approved ingestible sensor that not only allows patients to better monitor their health, but also lets physicians or family members track whether patients are taking their prescribed medications.

The Internet of Fashion

And if you don’t want to ingest it, why not make a fashion statement with it? Recently, Intel came out of the closet with a new smart shirt with conductive fibers that can track and stream your heart rate information over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to a smartphone or computer. 

A company from Taiwan namedAiQ  are leveraging smart clothing technology that will first be used by Taiwan’s bus drivers, who will be provided smart shirts later this year to prevent accidents. The shirt will monitor the drivers to sense if they are falling asleep, or their vital signs are dropping. The clothing has been trialed for a year on discharged hospital patients to track their conditions back to the hospital.

The Internet of Traffic

But who needs drivers at all? Soon we will be able to summon my car with the push of a button on a smartphone. It will be like a well trained horse that, “with a whistle”, will pull up to the curb and drive me to my destination. It will sense other vehicles and pedestrians in its path, determine the shortest and quickest routes, and reroute when it senses an accidents or traffic jams. This could put taxi drivers out of business with the ultimate “Uber” experience thatnot only senses the nearest cab, but brings you a driverless vehicle, brings you to your desired destination and bills you automatically without human intervention.

This could also revolutionize the life of a “soccer mom” who could simply tell the car to, “Go pick up the kids!”  And, perhaps most important for health and safety, it will make drunk driving a thing of the past.

The Internet of Environment

Recently, at the first SmartAmerica Expo held in Washington, D.C. there was a showcase to show how cities can manage large-scale events, respond to disaster scenarios and manage traffic flow.

We are also seeing expert decision systems that monitor and analyze safety conditions in industrial settings to identify and assess risk and automate corrective actions to prevent incidents, accidents, and production interruptions.  For example, SK Solutions makes construction sites safer with anti-collision systems for sensor-enabled cranes. This 3D anti-collision system monitors position, movement, weight, inertia, wind speed and direction of tower cranes and other equipment through a network of sensors. Based on real-time info, the system takes corrective action (check out a recent blog and video on the topic).

Internet of Sustainability 

We are all aware of the effects that climate change is having on our environment. However, as products, systems, and devices become smarter, they’ll have the ability to accumulate and share knowledge about the environmental impacts and consequences of certain human activities. By reducing the amount of energy and fuel needed to perform tasks and optimizing resource efficiencies, it is estimated that the Internet of Things is expected to help reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 9.1 billion metric tons by 2020 (equivalent to 18.6% of global GHG emissions in 2011), according to a report by AT&T and the Carbon War Room.

The Internet of Retail

We are in a position to start delivering highly personalized customer experiences through deeper insight into consumer behavior and leveraging predictive analytics to optimize product mix. You can optimize inventory trough automated replenishment
processes based on real-time demand information, stock levels and environmental factors. See an example of
vending machines

The Internet of Logistics

Today we have the capabilities and technology to reshape supply chains by integrating real-time data from freight, containers and shipped goods with predictive analytics to optimize transportation and logistics operations. Identify and resolve problems or issues with up-to-the-minute information from track and trace systems.

The Internet of Assets

There is a huge opportunity to leverage smart devices and sensors to transform enterprise asset management and field service operations. Companies can sense and predict when machines or components are due for preventative maintenance.  We can predict equipment malfunction, proactively provide service and replace faulty parts before system breakdown. Service costs also go down thanks to remote maintenance.

The Internet of Design

As the number of “smart” products grows, the methods of product development and life cycle management across the supply chain will change. Companies may start to build a more holistic digital product master by:

  • Adding software, electronics to traditional mechanical product structure.
  • Adding packaging to traditional recipe structure.
  • Adding sustainability data for analysis and simulation.

As stated earlier, we will see the R&D team leveraging the opportunity to add sensors to collect service and performance data into a product to improve analysis and simulation capabilities and to continuously improve the performance and design based on consumer preferences and automated feedback.

The Internet of Manufacturing

The emergence of machine to machine (M2M) and Internet of Things is changing the operational environment of the manufacturing firm. Data from Analysys Mason shows that today we have about 100 million M2M devices, and this is estimated to grow to out 700 million in 2023 with an expected revenue of $88 billion within the next 10 years (from $10 billion in 2013).

These concepts make up what is becoming commonly referred to as Industry 4.0 — the fourth Industrial Revolution, which describes the convergence of the classical manufacturing space with the increasing intelligence of devices and internet technologies. There are five main tenets of the fourth Industrial Revolution that more explicitly explain the connection between the technological enablers and their direct impact on manufacturing processes:

  • Smart devices at every stage of manufacturing provide raw data, analysis, and closed-loop feedback that are utilized to automate and manage process control systems.
  • These devices are connected, embedded, and widely used.
  • As an offshoot of the proliferation of smart devices, control systems will become far more complex and widely distributed.
  • Wireless technologies will tie these distributed control modules together to allow for dynamic reconfiguring of control system components.
  • Actionable Intelligence will become increasingly important because it will be impossible to anticipate and account for all of the environmental changes to which control systems will need to respond.

The Internet of Supply Chain

In a recent blog I wrote about the Jetsons Supply Chain, and how, through the use of smart technologies, we can envisage that:

  • Goods may be transported without human intervention from manufacturers to suppliers.
  • Warehouses will become completely automatic with goods moving in and out
  • Ordering and replenishment of goods will be made using intelligent decisions based on information received via smart sensors that can optimize transiting routes.
  • Suppliers will be informed of replenishment requests automatically and be able to provide the status of orders through seamless collaboration.
  • Such automation will create a dynamic production and transportation network and provides better asset management to improve the overall efficiency in the supply chain. 

Over the next few years it will be interesting to see which businesses will disappear, appear or reinvent themselves? Business leaders must design their processes to operate in this networked economy. We are in a unique position where we now have
access to the “Big Data” and the emerging tools to crunch massive amounts of data, but the critical difference will come in the ability to automatically understand and optimize process across the value chain.

One thing is true; it is closer than you think. Whether you know it or not, you are already connected to the Internet of Everything!

Follow we on twitter @howellsrichard

Assigned Tags

      You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.
      Author's profile photo Somnath Manna
      Somnath Manna

      Interesting and informative summary of multiple business trends in IoT, M2M and Network Economy space. Internet of Retail Smart Vending Machine reminds me of a blog I wrote of an usecase to trigger replenishment notification based on vending machine stock, temperature and humidity data real-time Experimentation with BlueMix Paas. 

      Internet of Manufacturing especially with Products not just being sold but rather being serviced (example being HVAC systems charged by volume of cold air being provided or aircraft engines charged based on hours of flying time) is slowly becoming reality. Interesting times are surely coming!


      Author's profile photo Patrick Maroney
      Patrick Maroney

      A great blog - efficiently and expertly covering a wide array of industries.   Looking forward to your next one and some example success stories!!!!!

      Author's profile photo Richard Howells
      Richard Howells
      Blog Post Author


      Thanks for the feedback.

      If you liked that oue, here is the next in the series which talks about some of SAP's new capabilities: