Everything is networked with everything else: After the internet of data comes the internet of things. The opportunities are huge - but they won't fall from the sky.
On the mountain pasture there is lush grass, fresh air and happy animals - and recently also high-tech. The Swiss company Tecsag has developed the Alptracker to automate the herding of sheep. The small boxes on the animals' necks detect when the flock is moving quickly in one direction, i.e. presumably fleeing from a wolf, and shocks the attacker with a loud warning sound. If an animal moves away from the herd, the shepherd can easily find it again thanks to GPS tracking.
IoT is everyday life
The project is a good example of the Internet of Things (IoT). Whereas previously only computers, tablets and smartphones were connected to the internet, today many other things are also online and potential data providers - even sheep. Almost everyone has something to do with the Internet of Things. The parcel reports its current location via the web, the blinds communicate with the thermometer and close when it gets too hot, the rented bicycle can be unlocked via smartphone. The Internet of Things is changing our lives - and it is changing the business of many companies, service providers and administrations.
The network supplier Cisco predicts that the Internet of Things will generate 14 trillion dollars in revenue in 2022, a good quarter of it in the manufacturing industry. On the other hand, IoT also has some pitfalls in store. The market research company Gartner, otherwise known for its technology euphoria, warns against a hasty entry into the topic. Above all, the still immature technology and the confusing landscape of providers could lead to disillusionment. Gartner reckons that currently three out of four IoT projects take twice as long as planned.
The analysts see a considerable need for action in the area of security. By 2020, the share of IoT in the budget for IT security will increase from one percent to 20 percent. Because IoT data can tell a lot about a company's products and processes and considerable costs can be incurred if communication fails, IoT networks are a lucrative target for the hacker industry for the purposes of espionage and blackmail. IoT therefore requires a new security culture and advanced security standards, which are currently still being developed.
New business models needed
So spiking products or factories with sensors headlong is not a good strategy. IoT is not an end in itself, but a means to a business end. It is precisely this purpose that needs to be found. However, the old business usually does not provide this, new business models are needed. Newcomers can orient themselves on already proven business models.
Predictive maintenance is almost an IoT classic. Sensors report when a part is worn and threatening to fail, the maintenance team then replaces the part in time and avoids an expensive machine downtime. The machine manufacturer can offer this higher availability to the customer in a service contract. IoT also pays off quickly in logistics. If it is known where parts and deliveries are, storage and transport times and thus costs can be optimised.
A business model does not necessarily have to promise more turnover and profit; cities are also increasingly using the IoT to increase the service and efficiency of municipal services. For example, there are already smart bins that report when they are full, and even the rubbish trucks are networked. This makes it possible to optimise emptying cycles and routes.
IoT benefits from AI
Many of the "things" such as machines or rubbish bins already exist, but they still need to be upgraded for the IoT. This requires appropriate sensor technology that generates data, as well as algorithms that draw meaningful conclusions from the data. The Internet of Things is therefore only really gaining momentum through another future topic: artificial intelligence. Both fields are developing rapidly, but are still not sufficiently interlinked. This is probably where the greatest challenge lies: IT experts and engineers must work together more closely so that companies and their products exist simultaneously in real and digital form in the future.