When we use our phones, we don’t think about the internet, we just use them. That didn’t used to be the case, though. Twenty years ago, home computers were just starting to use AOL, CompuServe and Prodigy to connect to the internet, and phones were still mostly connected to landlines and used for making calls and sending faxes. Remember faxes? Remember the early days of dial-up, when parents would have to ask their kids to get off the computer so they could make a phone call from their landline telephone? Today, however, we are in constant contact with the internet (except for those couple of seconds between zero and ten thousand feet). In the same way that the steam engine brought about the Industrial Revolution, the internet has brought us into the Information Age, where the answer to virtually any question is at our fingertips. The Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t something new or separate – it’s a continuation. And soon, just as phones followed computers, almost everything that has an on/off switch (and some things that don’t) will be connected to the internet, and the Internet of Things will no longer exist. All that will live on is simply the internet.
Today, IoT has morphed from just an initial concept into real, tangible hardware and software solutions. One example of IoT that’s been in your life for years is your wireless printer. At work, I can print to any company printer in the country no matter where I am. Even at home, my printer will predict when I am going to run out of ink and alert me before I actually do, so I can order it ahead of time. IoT isn’t a technology of tomorrow, it’s already here. Because of that, we are at a crossroads between manufacturing new “smart” products with built-in wireless connectivity and retrofitting existing “dumb” devices with sensors and RFID tiles. This is especially true of enterprises that are constantly finding ways to get more insight into and productivity out of their most expensive assets, but also know that simply replacing them would mean bad news for the balance sheet.
IoT is not a product being championed by a single company. Unlike how personal computers or even cell phones were initially introduced by one, maybe two technology giants, IoT is rather a sea change that is transforming our daily lives. Although there are literally hundreds of companies out there focusing on it, IoT is more a paradigm shift than a new technology.
When I think about IoT, that is to say, the internet, I’m struck by the unlimited potential that it has to completely transform the world around us, giving instant insight into any given situation. Consider that when everything is connected and all cars are self-driving, there will be no need for traffic lights anymore. In fact, why would we even have street signs? There will be virtually no need for us to take in and translate information of any kind that is related to an everyday task because our devices will do it for us at lightning speed.
You can predict the future in two ways: 1) what new things will be introduced and 2) what will disappear because of them. Here are a few examples:
- Everybody has a cell phone, and soon, no one will have a landline.
- Already, my phone recognizes if I’m on my way home from work and will let me know if there has been an accident on the highway and will suggest an alternate route.
- There will be no physical keys or keyholes anymore (many already own cars that use a fob to unlock and lock, with no keys or keyholes).
- There will be no light switches or any kind of physical on/off switch. You’ll just walk into your house and say “lights.” Or more likely your house will recognize when you’re home and turn them on for you, because we all know that things are better when you don’t have to ask for them.
Eventually, your devices, your “things,” will know more about you than you do in almost every aspect of your life. But you won’t think about all of these things individually. You won’t have a smartphone or a smartwatch, you’ll just have a phone and a watch, and everything else that you own will just be… the internet.
With its differentiated “Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast” methodology and its exceptional ecosystem of alliances, Deloitte can help organizations jumpstart their IoT journey. To learn more, contact Deloitte’s Chief IoT Technologist, Robert Schmid at firstname.lastname@example.org or watch Robert’s weekly coffee chats with leaders in the IoT space.
Robert Schmid is Deloitte’s Chief IoT Technologist. Co-authors Ryan Manes and Mark Neier are practitioners in Deloitte’s Supply Chain & Manufacturing Operations practice.