The Internet of Things presents exciting new opportunities for development and progress, and some of these were touched on in Part 1 of this Internet of Things series. Understanding the Internet of Things may perhaps best be achieved by reviewing a SWOT analysis to assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of this concept at the current time.
The Internet of Things has a major strength in that many people see its potential and are investing in it. According to Stuart Dredge (2014) writing for The Guardian, the British government has invested £73 million in the Internet of Things. That aside, Dredge also reports that investors put $1.1 billion into technology of the Internet of Things in 2013, and this money was spread between 153 different investment deals. So the Internet of Things is certainly getting the financial support that it needs to progress. The Internet of Things is already offering developments in healthcare, such as the example provided by Michael Chui, Markus Loffler and Roger Roberts (2010) reported by the McKinsey Quarterly, where pill shaped cameras track and identify sources of illness. The same report explains how advertising billboards in Japan “look” at people going by and change their advertisements based on the demographics of those people. The Internet and Things is already saving businesses, governments and healthcare organisations time and money.
Internet of Things technology is still a fairly new concept and some weaknesses do exist. One is that there are concerns that devices from different companies will not be able to talk to one another, and steps may need to be taken to make sure that this is indeed the case. If not, individuals will be tied into one company’s products, potentially, which may not be very satisfying for consumers. There may need to be one protocol developed that crosses country borders. Otherwise the Internet of Things could end up being a bit like the situation with electricity in different countries – where a person needs a tool to help to help the devices talk to one another (with electricity there is no one universal protocol, and people have to take plug adapters with them when they travel – it is hoped that the Internet of Things would not be developed in this way.
Opportunities are where it is really at with the Internet of Things and why so many people are interested in investing in it. In particular, the Internet of Things provides excellent opportunities for efficiency. This is already being delivered to some extent. For example, developments of RFID devices have allowed much better tracking of goods through the supply chain leading to less shrinkage for organisations. At the same time, the fairly new development of Smart Buildings means that buildings are able to be much more efficient with regard to energy – a development that can only be positive in terms of saving the environment and reducing climate change. Other opportunities are less serious and highbrow but also likely to be very interesting to consumers are developments such as the recent announcement by Apple of “CarPlay”. This allows the iPhone to, according to Andrew Dredge, take “charge of your car’s infotainment system”. Google is also reported to be doing this with Android.
Threats to the Internet of Things may largely be grounded in people’s fear of what technology can do. When you start raising the idea of robots communicating with one another and learning, the film I-Robot (or the stories developed by Isaac Asimov) spring to mind, where robots had been developed to the point that they were able to violate the Three Laws of Robotics and mount a coup against humans. Also, the concept that people might be able to control other people’s minds using Internet of Things technology leads to concerns of control, as well as privacy arising. It is possible, and perhaps indeed likely, that such fears may somewhat limit the development of the Internet of Things while governments try to work out what is acceptable and what is too risky to develop. Of course some might go ahead and develop anyway. On a lower level, privacy is already causing concerns with people worried about how much information devices may be able to collect about them and with whom and how that information might be shared.
Aditional resource: excellent infographic on the internet of things done by Libelium:
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.