As an example of the potential for the Internet of Things, take for instance the mousetrap. It has been a very long time since anyone has built a genuinely better mousetrap.
But with the ubiquity of device connectivity these days, it is now possible for the janitorial staff in a commercial warehouse to be notified via smartphone when a mouse has been caught in some dark corner of the building ― and subsequently inform the end-user that it is time to set another trap. In short, IoT can improve efficiency in many different ways.
That is just one example of how quickly the Internet of Things is evolving into the Internet of Everything. Research firm IHS chronicles the quick pace of this transition and gauges the explosive growth projected for IoT.
The number of installed Internet-connected devices reached an estimated 12.1 billion in 2013, a figure that is expected to more than quadruple to nearly 50 billion by 2025. Shipments of IP-addressable devices reached 4.3 billion in 2012 and will grow to 13.7 billion by 2025.
The range of connected devices is also expanding. In 2013, more than 87 percent of Internet-enabled devices were found in computers, consumer electronics, and fixed and mobile communications. That percentage will decline precipitously to about 59 percent of the installed base during the next 12 years as the IoT penetrates the industrial market and new Internet-enabled devices are developed.
Indeed, the manufacturing, medical, automotive, and military/aerospace sectors are among those that will see the greatest increase in connectivity, with IHS predicting that nonconsumer sectors will account for 35 percent of the installed base by 2025.
Many of the new nodes in the IoT will be mundane items such as streetlights, parking meters and ― yes ― networked mousetraps.
The increasingly digital nature of social interactions is driving the growth of the IoT, enabled by nearly ubiquitous connectivity, inexpensive processing and sensor solutions, and the ability to use the Internet to facilitate and expand communications between electronic devices.
But growth in the IoT is expected to face some challenges, including a lack of appropriate business models for some subsectors, an absence of standards to enable inter-device communication, and expected resistance by consumers in some areas.
One potential benefit for consumers and businesses of a more connected device ecosystem is that they can expect more tailored services, products and even billing statements.
However, this requires that information be shared, sometimes with multiple parties. An excellent example of this is the use of telematics by the automotive insurance industry to offer discounts to drivers in exchange for opting to use a cellular module to track their driving.
Since this is an opt-in program, the pool of drivers tends to be misrepresentative since for the most part only the safer drivers choose to enroll.
While some consumers are glad to have the choice, others see this ability for end-users to continually monitor them as the first step toward mandatory monitoring of driving habits. When the discussion turns to potential monitoring of health issues, the debate becomes even more contentious.
Still, the potential for creative uses of Internet-connected objects are virtually endless, ranging from cellular-equipped tractors monitoring fertilizer and seed distribution to Bluetooth-enabled teddy bears with built-in medical sensors to enable more child-friendly health monitoring. The possibilities are limited only by the human imagination.
By Bill Morelli
Bill Morelli is the associate director of IHS Technology covering M2M and Internet of Things technology. ― Ed