Internet of Things Poses Challenges, Opportunities for Businesses: Gartner

Major vendors and technology leaders such as Cisco, Microsoft and Oracle are announcing initiatives aimed at tackling the Internet of Things.

The sheer diversity of applications for the Internet of Things--the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and interact with their internal states or the external environment--is so broad that it is easy to become overwhelmed and yet find nothing that appears to relate directly to one's existing business, according to a report from IT research firm Gartner.

As the Internet plays an increasingly central role in the modern world, not only at the level of infrastructure, but also in culture, society and business, the Internet of Things is extending that role to encompass an increasingly diverse range of devices and communications streams, and extends these systems into significant new areas but also raises some confusion over the potential similarities.

"By understanding the various classes of devices that will likely populate the Internet of Things, the CIO will be well-placed to spot additional opportunities or see similarities that business colleagues may overlook," Stephen Prentice, vice president and Gartner Fellow, said in a statement. "By ignoring the details of each application and looking instead at the underlying characteristics of the different device types and how they can populate an Internet of Things infrastructure, the CIO or IT leader can bring clarity and insight to what appears to be a very confused set of possibilities. By simply classifying device types and functionalities, IT leaders make market segmentation and the identification of new business opportunities much simpler."

The report also noted IT leaders—natural entry points for employing new technology ideas for business-- can use their understanding and insight to objectively assess where and how these new developments might benefit their organizations in reducing the costs of existing operations and processes, or help create new revenue streams and value opportunities.

"The volume of opportunities arising from the Internet of Things over the long term is generally agreed to be in the realm of very large to huge," Prentice continued. "Manufacturing opportunities, deployment, activation and ongoing management of millions of devices, and the analytical opportunities arising from massive streams of potentially real-time information all represent huge untapped business opportunities. Business and IT leaders should explore these developments, and focus not on what is new and different, but look more closely at what is essentially the same as existing business processes."

Major vendors and technology leaders such as Cisco, Microsoft and Oracle are announcing initiatives aimed at tackling the Internet of Things. Cisco recently predicted that the Internet of Things, including machine to machine (M2M) systems, would have a major impact on global Internet network, with both the number of devices and the amount of traffic from these devices growing quickly.

By 2017, there will be about 3.6 billion Internet users, almost half of what will be the projected worldwide population of 7.6 billion people that year. By comparison, there were 2.3 billion users in 2012, or about 32 percent of the world’s population, according to Cisco’s report. There also will be more than 19 billion network connections—both fixed and mobile devices as well as M2M connections—by 2017, up from about 12 billion in 2012.