The sheer potential size and diversity of the Internet of Things, plus the current absence of standards, are giving the new Information and Communications Technology (ICT) specialists a real headache. The main problem is that it is hard to spot immediate opportunities that can be monetised.
Marketing aspirations are directing – and also perhaps leading people to overestimate – the market for connected objects. According to estimates, this market could well reach 25 billion units by the end of the decade. However, the report from the Gartner Institute which cites this figure also warns of the risks of betting on a market that certainly seems highly promising but where ideas and opinions are still radically divided. At the moment there are no standards to underpin development and deployment in this space. The technology is feeling its way forward, with each day bringing new innovations.
Many and varied ways forward
The Gartner report states that manufacturing and computer sectors will benefit most from the widespread takeup of connected objects. Certainly there will be considerable demand for manufacture and maintenance of equipment and the systems which monitor them. But what will really determine how things go forward in this field relates to the management of all the data obtained. The major challenge is how the data and information flows are to be aggregated, processed and managed in real time so as to optimise the decision-making value of this equipment. In fact, although the IoT field might prove to be new Eldorado, it is nevertheless hard for companies to make plans to take advantage of it. Rather than looking too far ahead, it might be more realistic to capture more immediate opportunities available in the management, monetisation and monitoring of data coming from embedded systems which are already tried and tested in the manufacturing and commercial fields, suggest the Gartner authors. Remote deployment of such peripherals could very well be supported by Cloud computing solutions. These ‘quick wins’ could therefore mark a first step towards the mass advent of connected objects, offering a learning process and at the same time bringing tangible monetary benefits.
New role for ICT managers?
IT Directors are by definition the ones who are responsible for bringing the new ICTs into their company. It will be their job to make an objective assessment of just what connected objects are likely to contribute to their company – identifying the potential savings to be made in existing processes or spotting opportunities to create new sources of revenue. Given the new strategic dimension of this job, it may well be that the Chief Information Officer will take over the number 2 role in the firm traditionally occupied by the Chief Financial Officer. Pending confirmation of this new status, the IT Director will have the task of inculcating a digital culture throughout the company and laying the groundwork for the advent of connected objects by making sure that his/her colleagues have a good grasp of what this new field is all about. S/he will also need to ensure that usable, reliable data is available to feed into the company’s business processes and so can help to generate revenue in the immediate.