The business implications of the Internet-of-Things (IoT)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) decision to offer a short course on the business implications of the Internet-of-Things (IoT) reflects the growing importance of the IoT for corporations large and small. I've been studying it in detail for over three years, focusing on its potential impacts on business, government and other institutions. During this period, the IoT has been for most businesses a growing phenomenon hidden in plain sight. It remains largely misunderstood by business leaders, which is unfortunate because those that fail to appreciate and embrace it will soon feel the shock of its unprecedented effects.
The emerging IoT will disrupt and revolutionize businesses, governments and social institutions in part by forcing greater transparency, promoting data-driven decision-making and improving operational efficiencies. Related technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and facial recognition will similarly expand beyond research and academic settings to innovate business strategy development and implementation, operational business models, marketing, communications and sales. All industries will be affected and the impacts will quickly grow wider and deeper than we imagined a decade ago. Government agencies will also feel the effects, especially those involved in finance, the economy, military and intelligence operations.
The expected impacts of the IoT are astonishing. Intel projects that the IoT will contain 200 billion connected devices by 2020. International Data Corporation predicts growth in IoT related spending to rise by 15.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2015 and 2020, reaching $1.29 trillion dollars. General Electric expects the IoT to add $10 - $15 trillion to global GDP growth by 2030 - that's more than the entire economy of China!
Coping with the IoT will be challenging because so many proven rules, strategies and practices will not apply to a space where decisions are increasingly triggered, tracked and measured by non-human entities in near-real-time. Coping, adapting and leveraging the IoT for advantage will take time, and dedicated effort by operations and leadership teams.
Threats, opportunities and uncertainties
What should we expect? The likely impacts will parallel those of previous periods of widespread disruptive innovations. The rise of the desktop computer in the 1980s, networking in the 1990s, and the Internet in the late 1990s are recent examples. A more applicable, though less current one, was the introduction of the movable type printing press around 1450, when there were only an estimated 30,000 books in existence throughout Europe. Five decades later, over ten million had been printed on nearly every subject including science, literature, history, religion and politics, . The printing press made possible Europe’s Scientific Age, and, while we can’t be so specific about the IoT, we can be confident that it will be as revolutionary.
I will publish various posts on the IoT in parallel with MIT’s inaugural course offering. Some will be influenced by the course, while others will reflect our on-going involvement with IoT technologies and related analytical systems. Check our blog often over the next few months for frequent updates and new posts, or contact us with questions, feedback and shared insights.
 A guide to the Internet of Things, accessed September 27, 2017, https://www.intel.com/content/dam/www/public/us/en/images/iot/guide-to-iot-infographic.png
 Internet of Things spending forecast, January 4, 2017, IDC, https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS42209117
 Industrial internet insights report 2015, General Electric, https://www.ge.com/digital/sites/default/files/industrial-internet-insights-report.pdf
 Kelvin Claveria, 13 stunning stats on the Internet of Things, April 28, 2017, VisionCritical, https://www.visioncritical.com/internet-of-things-stats/
 The spread of printing in Gutenberg’s legacy, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/educator/modules/gutenberg/books/legacy/
 Irving Fang, Alphabet to Internet: Media in our lives, 3rd Edition, pages 41-43, 2005, Routledge.