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Here’s How the Internet of Things (IoT) Will Change Workplaces

7 Feb 2017 by Michael Lazar

If you work in a modern workplace, then you likely are already fairly familiar with the term: Internet of Things (IoT). But unsurprisingly, even in this exciting, cloud-powered and internet-fueled world of technology, it’s still not as commonly used a term as you may suspect. It’s already helping to change nearly everything as we know it, and soon, it will change workplaces forever. Here are a few reasons why.

Internet of Things Definition

Let’s first define just what this term means. According to Tech Target, “The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.”

A detailed and illustrated breakdown that was created by tech blogger, Jesus Fontecha, delivers even more clarity. 

This infographic depicts the scope of the internet of things
Figure 1

According to Figure 1, the IoT scope has reached every industry from the auto industry with smart parking; to farming with devices that monitor the optimal conditions for planting; to telemedicine and healthcare, which have benefited from disease monitoring and biometric sensors. Energy consumption, surveillance, building management, mobility, homes and every day things like clothes have all been augmented by IoT as well. 

Using Figure 1, it’s easier to understand how IoT can change your workplace. From amenities like smart parking, to wearable devices, smart farming, information exchange, location services and more. There’s a lot going on when Everything as a Service (XaaS) is delivered in an online capacity that’s always on, always streaming and always accessible, with a 99.9% uptime rating.

At the present, there are a few notable platforms that are helping to fuel this revolution in technology. Just take a look at the following Internet of Things examples:

  • Amazon Web Services
  • Microsoft Azure
  • ThingWorx IoT Platform
  • IBM's Watson
  • Cisco IoT Cloud Connect
  • Salesforce IoT Cloud
  • Oracle Integrated Cloud
  • GE Predix

According to Business Insider, an estimated $6 billion will pass through the IoT ecosystem over the next 10 years, “… including application development, device hardware, system integration, data storage, security, and connectivity. But that will be money well spent, as those investments will generate $13 trillion by 2025.”

By 2020, it’s predicted that IoT will have more than 24 billion devices. The sheer number of these devices is astounding, and will ultimately represent a four to one ratio for every device to human on the planet. Benefiting from this emerging technology will be three sectors: Consumers, businesses and governments.

This infographic shows the ecosystem of the Internet of Things
Figure 2

A breakdown of the IoT ecosystem is given in Figure 2, where the IoT platform collects data provided by devices on the network, analyzes it, and then shares it to the IoT remote, which then sends it across the network back to the devices. This explanation through the visual adds weight to the 2020 prediction of 24 billion devices being connected to the network. Can you imagine all of the data that will be collected?

More Accessible Data

With a variety of Internet of Things applications in use, companies will have unprecedented access to data. Big data really won’t be considered an exclusive, enterprise-only option any longer. Instead, businesses of all sizes will have the ability to tap into these data clusters—which can help them improve operations by better understanding the behavior of both their customers as well as their employees.

"Companies will have access to an enormous flood of data that all these connected devices will generate," explains Mary J. Cronin, professor at Boston College, Carroll School of Management, and author of "Smart Products, Smarter Services: Strategies for Embedded Control, in an interview with Business News Daily. "But that data needs to be analyzed to understand more about customers and trends. Companies will need to start using IoT data as part of their planning in order to stay competitive and to offer innovative new services and products."

Virtual Workplace

More workers are going mobile. According to a Wired publication, an estimated 1.3 billion workers are already mobile, which factors to be about 37% of the entire world’s workforce. A virtual and connected workspace can link up workers via live chat functions with the ability to video chat, host meetings and share projects or files that are managed from one central system.

A roving employee will be able to receive push notifications to a wearable device like their smartwatch that reminds them of important meetings and to-dos—all synched to their virtual calendar and project management system. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) will suddenly take on new meaning when a smartwatch or smartphone talks to a company device, or when a roving laptop docks at a workstation and instantly connects to the company network, enabling even more freedom for virtual or mobile workers.

M2M (Mobile to Mobile)

M2M Internet of Things Technology will reshape the office meeting forever. Newer technology like the Ava 500 video collaboration robot (a brainchild of Cisco and Roomba) allows executives to be on site at any company around the world at any time, but all while connected from their virtual or mobile office.

As opposed to flying out of town and traveling, which could suck days from a monthly work cycle, instead, managers and executive level employees can simply log into a robot that has a touchscreen interface and a camera, and can rove around remote locations while interacting with employees like they were really there. With technology like this still in the incubation stages, it’s exciting to think of what might come next.

Mobile Device Management (MDM)

MDM will become easier, too. Smart devices that are connected to the network will be able to be remotely controlled and managed. This adds a new layer of administrative control and security to these devices. For example, if a device were to turn up missing, it could be remotely locked down and wiped by merely logging into the web account and pressing a few buttons. Additionally, the device’s contents could be first safely backed up in the cloud, so they could be cloned to a new replacement device with ease. Some IoT devices may not even feature screens, but will house data and feature networking functionality, controllable remotely via smartphone or smart device.

Indeed, technology is poised to bring workplaces a new level of efficiency and workers a new level of proficiency. Where this technology will take us over the next three years is anyone’s guess. One thing is for sure, though, it’s only going to keep on getting better.

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