2017 is less than two months away and it promises to be a big year for data and connected devices. 2016 has by and large been a fairly terrible year in terms of politics and global stability, but one thing that has shone through has been technological developments, especially within Internet of Things (IoT) development.
2016 is the year we have seen connected devices become common in many homes, companies utilizing them for their own benefit and increasingly large swathes of society understanding what they do. 2017 is likely to bring even more change, so we decided to look at the five ways that the IoT is likely to impact businesses in the next 12 months.
Regardless of whether you are a small office based service company or a huge international retailer, supply chains are hugely important. It could be from anything from the vital supplies needed for a presentation to a new client, through to sending out millions of the most popular new cell phones across the globe.
The IoT is going to have a huge impact on supply chains across the world, with more accurate tracking, increased reliability in deliveries, and even improving maintenance of certain products. One of the key ways this is likely to work initially is through the use of RFID chips, which can automatically identify where an item is at any one time. So rather than relying on an item being scanned at a warehouse, the sensor for the RFID chip can notify people of where the package is in real-time and decreasing the chances of loss or delay.
In addition to this it helps to identify if a product has changed in state during transit, something which can be essential to restaurants, catering, and grocery companies in particular. If they have ingredients that need to be stored in a specific temperature range throughout the entire supply chain, they can know with confidence that they have been properly maintained from source or if they haven't who can be held responsible. This is an essential element for many companies as any change could either decrease shelf life, flavour or even promote the growth of bacteria within certain products.
The IoT is going to bring increased peace of mind for companies in this regard, creating a level of transparency previously unthinkable and certainty of deliveries based on knowing exactly where an item is at any one time.
Efficiency is a broad subject, but is primarily the focus of the IoT and something we are going to see even more of in the coming 12 months.
One example we have seen is the use of sensors within plane engines to predict the wear and tear on an engine to let engineers know about potential issues in advance of them becoming problems that can ground aircraft for repairs. It is something that GE Aviation, the second largest plane engine manufacturer in the world, has been including IoT sensors in engines and now collect between 5-10 terabytes of data per plane per day to help maintain their operational readiness.
This means less down time and fewer delays for passengers on airlines, but this kind of pre-emptive sensor-driven repair work is also stopping environmental disasters for oil companies.
An increasing number of ‘digital oilfields’ and pipelines are utilizing the IoT to track the state of valves, pipes and wells that will automatically divert or stop the flow of oil if an issue is detected, without any kind of human interaction. This means less chance of tons of oil being leaked and potential environmental devastation. It is also helping to direct maintenance crews to specific areas, meaning that they don’t need to survey the thousands of miles of pipelines, instead they can be directed to specific areas where sensors show potential future issues, saving them time and decreasing the chance of downtime in the supply chain.
An attack on Dyn that took down Twitter, the Guardian, Netflix, Reddit, and CNN was the largest recorded in history, with the attack generating 1.2Tbps of traffic to the service, which has been claimed to be the most powerful DDOS attack ever. This was done through IoT devices and the ease with which the hacker managed to gain control of millions of them is likely to have a huge impact on data security moving forward.
Trying to defend against an attack like this is going to be impossible given its strength, but it shows the weakness in several IoT devices that companies will need to be aware of. They may not be using the more simplistic devices with their most sensitive data, but the truth is that sensors on things like engines and valves need to be balanced between affordability and security.
It means that companies looking to utilize the technology more fully in the next 12 months are going to need to think about how they will achieve this and the early adopters are going to need to work out how they can retro fit security to devices already in use.
In our global economy there are many companies who work across the world and trying to maintain control of every moving part is almost impossible. However, with the use of the IoT, this is likely to change.
Going back to the digital oil field as a prime example, where before oil companies would need to have several people working across a single site in order to make sure that everything was working properly, through the IoT they could technically have one person controlling everything across the world. Sensors would be able to detect anomalies and act instantaneously to avoid issues before informing the operator that something is wrong and needs to be fixed.
It also means that elements like heating control, power usage, and water usage can be monitored from one place. It may seem like a small saving at first glance, but if a company has 30 offices around the world, the savings that can be made from becoming more sustainable in these elements can be significant.
Increased Opportunity For Integration
The IoT has created a significant opportunity for companies to create new technologies that can integrate across millions of devices. We have already seen lightbulbs, car engines, fridges, plug sockets, kettles and boilers, as well as thousands of other ‘dumb’ devices becoming smart and connected, it is a trend that is only going to increase.
This gives companies many avenues to explore that have not been previously considered, with sensors becoming both more capable and smaller they could be used in almost any product. At the same time, with the proliferation of the technology the knowledge available around it has also increased, so with more people working on more technologies, this cycle of growth and IoT innovation is only going to accelerate.
With this kind of development occurring more and more, companies are going to look at the potential that the IoT will have for their business in 2017, it looks like it will be an exciting year.