Investigating the internet of things

Find out why Rob Clark thinks the Internet of Things is set to play an ever more important part in the business environment.

Investigating the internet of things

The Internet of Things: what does it mean for you and your business?

The term, Internet of Things (IoT), is widely considered to have been coined by Kevin Ashton, an expert on digital innovation, who developed the idea that the next version of the Internet will be about data created by things, not by people.

In 1999, Ashton was quoted in the web-based Radio Frequency Identification Journal as saying: “If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things – using data they gathered without any help from us – we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best.”

It’s probably fair to say that most of us consider ‘being connected’ to mean through devices such as our tablets or smartphones – in the IoT’s future it points to a world where just about anything could be connected to anything else. But it goes further than that, the IoT emphasises that this future will dramatically increase the value of everyday ‘things’.

The IoT will bring to life the opportunity to analyse an increasing variety of statistics, and could revolutionise the targeted marketing of products and services. Take Google’s recent purchase of Nest Labs, a company that makes intelligent gadgets including thermostats and smoke alarms, as an example. The products Nest creates learn from the way they are used and programme themselves by taking into account how they are used. Their most important attribute is arguably their ability to reap huge amounts of behavioural data, and the more that is amassed, the more valuable the gadgets become to Nest. They become a way of seeing how consumers behave, and therefore powerful tools in anticipating their future product needs.

Imagining today’s tomorrow

Look around you right now and suddenly this futuristic scenario of

wide-scale connectivity does not seem as aspirational as it sounds. We’re already seeing and feeling its presence in the devices, cloud infrastructures and intelligence tools we use every day; the world is already connected.

For a business, becoming a part of the IoT can be a daunting prospect. Imagining every single possible device and sensor available, and trying to work out how they COULD be employed in your business is the wrong way to do it. Instead, limit your view to the data your business actually requires. Also, keep in mind that how your business already makes its decisions will dictate what data you require and how you take your first steps into the IoT.

At the heart of the IoT is sensor technology, it is what bridges the gap between the analogue and digital worlds. Epson has an established history with sensors (we manufacture them, synthesise the quartz crystals they contain and develop products that utilise them) and we can see first hand that the technology is advancing at a breakneck pace. In the future, there will be very few devices that are not capable of monitoring themselves with integrated sensors.

Through this union of technology, the IoT of today provides entire fleets of printers that can monitor themselves and intelligently report their ink levels and maintenance requirements, and projectors capable of notifying a central facilities team that their lamps are wearing out and will need replacing. The IoT of tomorrow will build on these abilities by enabling these devices to feed this data back to the companies you purchased them from, and thereby afford them the opportunity to provide you with products and an enhanced level of service tailored specifically to your needs.

The scenarios above serve only to illustrate what is already made possible by the Internet of Things. Imagine the possibilities that are yet to come, and you’ll see that today’s tomorrow is right around the corner.