How the Internet of Things is transforming Business

27 February 2017

Over Christmas 2015 I spent a lot of my beach time getting sun burnt and considering the threat of global warming to my kids and to their kids.

I eventually decided that, to save the planet, I could start by measuring the energy consumption of every electrical device in the world. This would help people understand how to use these devices more efficiently, they would use less energy and “voila” world saved!

The only problem is – how the heck do I talk to every electrical device in the world? More importantly – how do I get them to talk back to me?

Welcome to the emerging world of the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things? What the heck is that?

All many of us know about this topic is via TV or the newspaper with an over hyped American guru telling us how our new fridges will know whether we are about to run out of milk and will place an order for delivery that day.

Now, to be honest, I don’t want Countdown to know that every week I drink four dozen beers, scoff sixteen packets of crisps and kill my inner sadness with endless king size bars of dairy milk chocolate.

So why am I writing an article trying to explain and justify something that sounds a little bit too much like big brother is watching? Because it matters. Because the Internet of Things is about how our businesses can sustainably compete in the future.

So, let’s start by trying to explain the Internet of Things

The Basic Building block of the Internet of Things – the unique address

Just as we have a unique address at home, the internet uses unique addresses to connect devices and allow them to speak to each other.

This address looks a bit like this Up until recently the number of possible addresses using this approach was around 4.3 billion.

“4.3 billion addresses? That’s plenty.” you might say. Not quite.

There are now over 2.1 billion smart phones in the world. There are an additional 2 billion PC’s as well. That’s a total of 4.5 billion devices each with a unique internet address. Add every web site to that list and the reality is we ran out of addresses years ago. (Tech geeks – yes I know it’s not that simple, but no one else actually cares.)

So, the geniuses in internet land came up with a new addressing scheme called IP V6 (Internet Protocol Version 6). This provided for enough internet addresses to uniquely identify every molecule on the surface of the earth and then do the same for five similar sized planets.  Using a technical term, we now have a “shed load of addresses” and won’t run out for another million years or so.

So how will unlimited internet addresses help my business compete?

Let’s take an example from our daily lives.

Those of you old enough to remember probably still own an AA road map.

It’s hard to imagine that world – stopping at the side of the road to check we are on the right track, yelling at our partner because they said “turn that way” and you said “which way?” and then it was too late and you missed the turnoff.  Deliveries were late, drivers got lost, shipping deadlines were missed and business lost all because we couldn’t find our way from A to B.

Now we simply say “OK Google give me directions to home” and a soothing voice accompanies you all the way, always polite, never getting angry, and even able to connect to your home phone to tell the family exactly what time you will get there. Not only that this information could, and is, made available to thousands of others. How do you think Google maps knows that there is a traffic jam five kilometres down the road?

You are already a part of the Internet of Things, only now the virtually infinite numbers of addresses means that Google Maps (geolocation) is barely a drop in the ocean in terms of possibilities for efficiency and competitive advantage.

Imagine that this same ability to communicate could be applied to things that you make, things that you ship, things that you maintain and things that you use, to deliver the products and services you rely on. The way you do business today could end up a bit like that dog-eared AA map, a relic of a bygone era.

Over a series of the next three articles I aim to describe how kiwi companies currently use the Internet of Things to be more efficient, cut wastage and to compete locally and globally.

These articles will cover:

  1. The I of T – Energy Management
  2. The I of T – Production Management
  3. The I of T – Supply Chain Management

As a regular contributor to the EMA’s Business Plus Magazine I strongly believe that sharing information and gaining access to fresh ideas is why we are members in the first place. If you enjoy my articles and if this one has struck a chord I would like to ask a favour.

The Internet of Things is an emerging and important field. Being a consultant, writer, father, grandad (sob) and husband means I don’t get out as much as I used to and so predicting trends and commenting on ICT issues does feel a bit like preaching from a bubble some days.

If you are working on something interesting, or have an idea or opinion that might inform this series better, then please connect with me via Link’d In or email in the link below. Just because it seems ordinary to you doesn’t mean others won’t gain immensely from your insight. I know for a fact that I will.