In the not so distant future, you will wake up in the morning to your coffeemaker brewing automatically and your lawn sprinkler will water the garden based on the weather report... When you are ready to leave, your car key mounted with the location, context aware and fingerprint sensors, will inform your car about your arrival, so that your car can adjust your favorite settings (temperature, music, etc.,) and rev up the engine as you approach the car!
No, I am not indulging in flights of fancy. These are just few ways in which the Internet of things – the set of technologies that enable communication between different objects –is likely to impact our life.
The esoteric technology will surely create ripples in the business world as well, especially the manufacturing space. For instance, manufacturers of smart printers fitted with sensors, will be able to track consumption of consumables such as ink, toner and paper and use this information to chart out usage patterns. This will benefit them in various ways. They will gain from business process efficiencies, for one. They can optimize investment in consumable stocks by enabling just-in-time sales. Also, it opens up new revenue streams, say offering document-management-as-a-service solutions. Other benefits include cost saving, better customer engagement, stronger Business Intelligence (BI) and higher Return on Investment (ROI).
As this trend catches on, there will soon come a time when consumers are no longer owners of devices and equipment. Akin to cloud computing, where the user pays only for virtual capacity, here too, customers will neither have to pay an upfront cost nor shell out any annual maintenance charges or upgrade fees. The service provider will find that he can serve the customer better and build a deeper relationship. From the perspective of a manufacturing company, the Internet of things can be equated to a plant’s lean manufacturing program amplified several times over as multiple factories and regions get interconnected. Further, manufacturers can move beyond manufacturing to services and sale of consumables, thereby creating the trend of service-ization (The innovation of an organization’s capabilities and processes to shift from selling products to selling integrated products and services that deliver value in use).
This calls for the establishment of a technology ecosystem with a stable architecture supported by new algorithms and applications, which links an enormous number of things. However, algorithm specialists and software architects are likely to be in short supply. But the good news is new frameworks are being developed and many companies are becoming part of this ecosystem.
Well, the journey to interconnect billions of things has already begun. Most companies who are aware of the concept have a positive perception of the technology with 50-56% of respondents in a survey saying IoT solutions would help their organizations. Most of the companies hope that the technology would open up new business opportunities and provide ways to improve existing processes and products. Many expressed anticipation of faster response times and cost savings.
Come 2020, the Internet of things will be $8.9 trillion market with 50 billion connected devices. The opportunities seem endless and the advantages enormous, provided challenges like security issues are tackled.
The stage is set for Manufacturing’s next Big Bang. How ready are you?