The Internet of Things (IoT) may sound like a futuristic wave of talking refrigerators and self-starting cars, but it’s actually more straightforward than you might imagine. At its most basic level, the IoT is internet-connected devices that communicate with one another, affecting our lives inside and outside the home.
The IoT will change how we work by saving time and resources and opening new opportunities for growth and innovation.
The Internet of Things is a network of physical objects embedded with sensors and other technologies that allow them to connect to each other and exchange data. These devices include everyday household objects as well sophisticated tools used in the tech industry.
Over the past decade, and especially in the last few years, the IoT has become one of the most crucial tools of modern technology. Devices connected in a low-cost, analytical manner provide us with more accessible technology and more data to evolve the tech space and smart office than we could have ever previously imagined. The IoT allows for seamless communication between people, processes and things.
As IoT technology becomes further embedded in our work lives and grows more sophisticated, workplaces will have to adjust. Here are some ways IoT will affect how we work.
The Internet of Things will be a data machine. This means companies will have to rethink how they collect and analyze information. Decision-makers will have to learn and adapt to a new form of data intelligence, and the amount and type of information IoT produces will create new and expanded roles for data analysts, strategists and customer service professionals.
“Companies will have access to an enormous flood of data that all these connected devices will generate,” said Mary J. Cronin, professor at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management and author of Smart Products, Smarter Services: Strategies for Embedded Control. “But that data needs to be analyzed [so we can] understand more about customers and trends. Companies will need to start using IoT data as part of their planning in order to stay competitive and to offer innovative new services and products.”
“IoT has the potential to make the workplace life and business processes much more productive and efficient,” Cronin said.
One significant way IoT will increase productivity and efficiency is by making location tracking and location-based services seamless and straightforward. As is currently done in hospitals, internet-connected equipment and devices will all be geographically tagged, saving workers time hunting things down and saving money by reducing the loss rate.
“Companies can track every aspect of their business, from managing inventory and fulfilling orders as quickly as possible to locating and deploying field service staff,” Cronin said. “Tools and factories and vehicles will all be connected and reporting their locations.”
IoT is the next big thing in your daily commute. The interconnectivity of mobile devices, cars and the road you drive on will help reduce travel time, enabling you to get to work faster or run errands in record time.
Today, the “connected car” is just the start of IoT capabilities. “AT&T, together with automotive manufacturers such as GM and BMW, are adding LTE connectivity to the car and creating new connected services, such as real-time traffic information and real-time diagnostics for the front seat and infotainment for those in the back seat,” said Macario Namie, former vice president of marketing at Jasper Wireless, a machine-to-machine (M2M) platform provider.
In the future, IoT will integrate everything from streets to stoplights.
“Imagine a world in which a city’s infrastructure installed roadside sensors, whose data could be used to analyze traffic patterns around the city and adjust traffic light operations to minimize or perhaps eliminate traffic jams,” Namie said. “This could save a few minutes, if not hours, of our day.”
Thanks to the IoT, device interconnectivity will facilitate the adoption of “smart grid” technologies, using meters, sensors and other digital tools to control the energy flow while integrating alternative sources of power, such as solar and wind.
“The Internet of Things will drastically lower costs in the manufacturing business by reducing wastage, consumption of fuel, and the discarding of economically unviable assets,” Namie said. “IoT can also improve the efficiency of energy production and transmission and can further reduce emissions by facilitating the switch to renewables.”
IT departments may have remote access to computers and mobile devices, but IoT will also enable remote control of other internet-connected devices, said Roy Bachar, founder and former chief executive officer of MNH Innovations and member of the Internet of Things Council.
Bachar, who has also worked with CommuniTake, a startup that provides remote-access technology, says the cutting-edge technology that has given them complete control over smartphones and tablets now allows remote management over other devices, including Android cameras and set-top boxes.
Soon mobile device management technologies will extend to IoT device remote management, introducing changes for IT departments and IoT-connected employees.
“It’s clear that the telecommunication giants will play a major role in the IoT domain, and they are all introducing solutions,” Bachar said.
Other than controlling other IoT devices, your smartphone will also be much like a remote control for your life, said Brendan Richardson, co-founder and former chief executive officer of Everactive (formerly PsiKick), a startup that develops IoT wireless sensors.
One of the most convenient aspects of IoT is that you have devices that “know” you and will allow you to get in and out of places and conduct transactions faster using a mobile device.
“The iPhone or Android will increasingly interact with a whole range of sensors that you never see and don’t own, but which provide your smartphone with valuable information and act on your behalf through an app,” Richardson said.
With these sensors, even getting your morning coffee won’t need to mean waiting in line. For instance, wireless sensors could detect when you walk into a Starbucks and alert the barista of your likely order based on your order history. You could then confirm or choose a different order, then pay for it using your phone, Richardson said.
IoT may make workers’ lives easier on many levels, but Richardson said IoT also means significant changes in every industry.
“Every business and every industry will be disrupted over the next 30 years,” Richardson said. “We’re seeing this now beginning with the regular old internet. It’s being driven by data and large-scale efficiencies when you convert something to bits rather than atoms.”
Richardson cited the evolution of movie rentals as an example.
“Netflix more or less destroyed Blockbuster by using the internet to vastly improve the logistics of exchanging DVDs and removing pesky late fees. Then they converted the atoms of a DVD into bits and deliver [movies] over broadband now. [You get] more movies on demand and lower costs. And an entire industry – the DVD rental business – is consigned to the archive of history.”
Richardson said such disruptions will happen in every industry, so companies and their employees must be prepared.
Each time there is a technological revolution, older jobs are replaced with new ones that require new skills. The benefits of acquiring skills related to the IoT are endless. The more you know about the technology and can work within it, the better poised you are to seize lucrative IoT career opportunities.
Organizations in every sector are looking to fill positions that require IoT skills, especially in manufacturing and cybersecurity. Millions of jobs will be needed to deliver applications and business services to the IoT. Hundreds of thousands of them are entry-level. In short, it’s a massive opportunity for all levels of skill and expertise.
David Cotriss and Ed Tittel contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.