The Internet of Things! If you aren't on board the hype train yet, allow me to provide you a ticket.
What is the Internet of Things?
It is always something completely different depending on whom you ask. IoT is sliced bread. IoT is the Pony Express. IoT is a Twix bar with Dr. Pepper! Yeah. Not really.
The basic idea of the 'Internet of Things' is to connect some 'thing' to the Internet.
You may be thinking to yourself, “Yeah, I've heard of that. My refrigerator will tell me when I'm out of milk, right?”
Well, yes. It can. However, that is like saying the Internet is Email. What else is the Internet? The Internet is YouTube. The Internet is Amazon, Google, Facebook, ICanHasCheezburger, and your favorite news outlet. Don't forget Skype, online banking, ordering a pizza, and restaurant reviews.
I'm sure I've forgotten something. Actually, I've forgotten a lot. All of that stuff is just the part of the Internet that focuses on your personal use. The Internet is also a business tool, team collaboration, telephone service, logistics...and so on.
IoT, like the Internet, can mean different things depending on who is talking. So that is why I’ll give you a simple definition followed by examples that make it easier to understand what IoT means to you.
The Internet of Things allows devices to communicate with each other, take actions based on those communications, and warns you when equipment needs maintenance.
A “practical” example to explain the IoT
For example, the IoT will to notify you when your cat falls into the aquarium. It will then cut the power to the aquarium's water pump, call ServPro to clean up the mess, order you a new goldfish, and record the expenditures for your monthly budget.
Let's break down this very serious example of your cat falling into your aquarium. Hanging from your cat's collar is a sensor that detects moisture. When moisture is detected, it wirelessly sends a message to the fish tank. The fish tank now knows that there is a cat inside of it, and shuts down the pump. This prevents the pump from clogging on loose cat fur and burning up. A sensor that monitors the water level has detected that it is low. Normally, it would send you a reminder that it is time to add water, but it also heard the message from the cat's moisture sensor. Instead, it sends a message to ServPro so that they can provide maintenance to your carpet. Since your table lamp heard the message that the aquarium's pump is shut down, and it is out of water, it relays a message to your Internet-connected refrigerator that you need a new goldfish. Your refrigerator goes ahead and orders milk since you are running low and you now have more than one item on your shopping list.
This is the IoT. Any one thing by itself may at first have seemed quite silly. Did you really need your refrigerator to order milk for you? If you take this analogy and relate it to a manufacturing business, it may start to seem more feasible.
IoT in Real Life
Let’s say you own a widget factory. In your factory, you install a smart lighting solution which only turns on lights when people need them. Otherwise, it turns off all of the lights, or dims them, to save energy. Sensors around your plant communicate with the lights, and no one needs to remember to shut them off when they leave for the day.
Every six months you have to pay someone to perform maintenance on your widget molding machine. Sometimes he sees that everything is ok, other times he may replace a broken belt. Regardless, you pay for him each time. The IoT will allow your widget molding machine to send a message, by way of your smart lights, to the maintenance man when the belt needs to be tightened. The maintenance man only needs to show up when he is called. You don't need to pay for a visit when everything is still OK, but you will get help before the belt breaks.
What does the above example imply for business owners?
It means that the IoT is the communication channel and business logic that makes your company more efficient. Individual benefits like energy savings, just-in-time maintenance, and inventory tracking can all leverage each other to form a robust communication network and multiply your productivity. Are you ready to jump on the IoT Train?