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What Exactly Is The Internet of Things?

Every time you have a little chat with Alexa or Siri you are engaging in the Internet of Things, or IOT. Among tech nerds and investment bankers alike, IOT is considered the third wave of internet capability. The first wave came ashore in the 1990s, when desktop computers and the occasional laptop connected to the internet, usually via a hard wire. Mobile devices that connected to the internet via wireless in the 2000s was the second wave, and now, everything from your refrigerator to your traffic app connect to a broadband network, creating that third wave of tech--one that will bring a tsunami of "things" online in the next decade--20 billion, according to Goldman Sachs' estimates.

What Is IOT?

Wrapping your head around IOT isn't that complicated. Let's ignore all the bytes and bits that go into the development of the gadget, and focus on the broader picture. Broadband internet is the broader picture--it's letting more people access the internet than ever before. This is the driving force behind the avalanche of smartphones in the world--as data plans have gotten cheaper, more people can afford them. And when several billion people are accustomed to being connected, all the time, the environment is ripe to find ways to keep them engaged on their devices by connecting them to other things. So the next logical step for developers was to add a WiFi chip or a smart sensor into a gadget, and have it connect to another gadget--usually a smart phone. Smartphones are the Mission Control for IOT--if there's an IOT  product out there--there's going to be an app for that.

IOT In The Now

Your high-tech new refrigerator that senses when you're low on milk and sends a grocery list to your smartphone is a great example of IOT. So are your Bluetooth headphones, and the jet engines in the plane you flew on last week. Checking the temperature in your house on your way home, and turning down the AC on a hot day via your watch is all in on the IOT. Traffic apps that integrate with your onboard navigation system in your car and reroute you to avoid slowdowns--that's IOT at it's best, when it gets you home as quickly as possible.

IOT In The Future

For businesses, IOT offers a two-prong approach to greater success. There are sophisticated data capture and analysis systems on the horizon--sensors placed in various points of the production cycle--like assembly lines, warehouses, and transportation, that will allow managers to see in real time how operations are flowing, and can seamlessly make adjustments based on that data. This minute-by-minute tracking will maximize productivity by automatically allocating resources to the most beneficial times. For bricks and mortar retail, security camera data that can be retained and analyzed to see patterns in customer behavior and buying habits would be an asset for any business competing with internet competition.

IOT  also will allow businesses to expand their lines of business--what if your products contained sensors that let you know when they needed maintenance or updating? Integrating more products for your customers via IOT keeps them engaged throughout the life cycle of their business.

IOT Security

The downside of IOT is the security issues it brings forward. Every device or gadget you have adds to the chances you'll get hacked, and while you're ultra-cautious about passwords on your laptop and cell phone, your attention to detail is probably not as great on your washer and dryer. Here's the reality--anything that connects to anything is vulnerable to a break in, and yes, a hacker can get to your banking information by breaking in to your smart fridge. So treat all your passwords and security as tight as you can, but hang on--blockchain is on the way for everyday use.

folio1 can show you how IOT can impact your business--give us a call today. One more thing--the analytics group Gartner estimates 26 billion IOT devices by 2025--substantially more than the Goldman estimate. It's clearly coming, so get ready.

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