The Internet of Things (IoT) is much like a software coder after a Taco Bell and Red Bull breakfast – simply unstoppable. According to research firm IDC, by 2020 the global IoT market will nearly triple to $1.7 trillion (that’s right – trillion) as the market matures in terms of devices and functionality.
Although IoT has just recently entered the vocabulary for most of us, did you know the possibility of machines “talking” to each other can be traced to the early ‘80s? The first common usage was in the form of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags mainly for inventory control purposes. But in the past year or two, the Internet of Things has truly become mainstream. Typing “Internet of Things” into Google returns more than 23.6 million hits.
It’s abundantly clear that IoT has staying power, but what does this mean for your mobile enterprise?
Dealing with more data. Remember when a few gigabytes of storage seemed like plenty for your personal computer? Or a time when the cloud was what you glimpsed out the window, not where you stored company data? IoT-enabled devices generate a huge amount of data that need to be captured and extrapolated to be truly useful. The interchange between device and back-office systems should be seamless and speedy. It is truly mind-boggling how much information IoT devices can generate. Even if you think your business has enough storage capacity, it probably doesn’t.
Making good use of new information. Finding a place to store all the information generated by IoT-enabled devices is part one of a two-part challenge. The second part entails leveraging that data for business use. Collecting data for the sake of collection does a business no good. More than ever, savvy companies are finding ways to leverage this data to drive product innovation, new services, customer retention efforts and other initiatives designed to propel business growth. If you can find a better/faster/cheaper way to put your company’s data to good use, you’ll be a hero.
Connectivity among devices. Not only are devices interacting with back-office systems, they also are “talking” among themselves in response to input or device proximity (think your office turning on lights and computer as you park the car). Just as it’s difficult to make yourself heard at a nightclub, these devices must “hear” each other clearly to execute commands, communicate with each other and share data. Extraneous features or overly complex coding makes for noisy apps. And noisy apps just aren’t useful.
Powering up new ways to work. We’re already asking Siri for directions and wirelessly uploading data from our Fitbits to our phones, but you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Much already has been written about the self-driving car, but what about a virtual assistant who can change an appointment because it senses you’re running late? New from iRobot (makers of the Roomba) and Cisco is a video collaboration device that can roam the office, the hospital or the factory floor. Supervisors can monitor remote locations, evaluate problems for themselves and collaborate remotely anywhere their iPhone or iPad can find an Internet connection.
While the Internet of Things holds the promise of increasing productivity through efficiency at work and our ability to play when not at work, companies that make mobile apps are justifiably nervous. Apps must not only work well with back-office systems and other devices, they must also be easy to use. How long do you wait for a consumer app to load before abandoning the task you were trying to accomplish? Is your tolerance any higher for business apps? Probably not.
Regardless of whether your company develops mobile apps or uses them for customers, vendors or employees, the popularity and usefulness of IoT-enabled devices should prompt you to carefully consider your app development process. Should the development, testing, deployment and maintenance of apps be handled in-house, or would it be better to outsource? Each piece can be considered separately, or as a whole.
If your company develops its own mobile apps, standing still on your mobile app strategy is not a viable option. It’s time to get moving.