Demystifying IoT: Capabilities, limitations, and the 5G revolution

The world is at the precipice of a new age of connectivity. Though IoT devices have made their way into our homes and businesses, we have yet to become a fully connected society. It will be a short matter of time before all things have the capability of Internet connectivity. As the 5G revolution rolls out across the world, IoT devices will spur not only new ways of completing tasks, but a shift in the way we approach everything in our lives, be it at work or at home. What does this mean for the business owner or leader? It means we must subscribe to a new paradigm. We must rethink how IoT devices, and the data they can provide, allow us to approach every business process from a new angle.  We must also think about how processes will be run at the edge, in real time, and not merely automated.

A current limitation of IoT is the fragmented nature of the ecosystem. The Internet of Things encompasses a wide array of devices that perform very different functions, connected through different carriers, on different networks, with a single thing in common – the Internet. Until now, this commonality has rarely been leveraged. Yes, the Internet can automate and connect things to help devices perform tasks and speed up some automation processes.  However, the paradigm shift will come when businesses realize the power of harnessing the aggregate data of the entire IoT / edge device ecosystem to execute and optimize all business processes regardless of device, task, carrier or network. When this happens, devices can run at a greater level of compute, at the edge, all the time, and we can leverage their full power to run business processes, not merely to automate connections.  

For example, one place I commonly see excessive amounts of preventable waste in a business is in device downtime and anomalies. When devices go down, or malfunction regularly, it wastes money. When a business doesn’t have immediate insight into which devices are costing them extra dollars or performing poorly, waste continues unchecked.  That waste is not merely in connectivity fees, but in operational delays, negative customer impacts and device degradation. Compound that waste over multiple networks and devices and you can immediately see why having a clear picture of your IoT ecosystem is so important. Driving out waste starts with identifying its source. The problem is that IoT is often fragmented across carriers, networks and devices that provide different data sources, too much data, or unusable data, making it impossible for operators to gain a clear picture of the network as a complete ecosystem. 

Again, the good news is our devices share a commonality–they are all connected to the Internet. They also contain far more intelligence than most utilize. This means that the hard part is done. The data is there. The ability to run business process is there. It just needs the right tools applied to aggregate it and display it in a way that is insightful and actionable. This is the paradigm shift business owners and leaders must make, from viewing IoT devices as simple task automation to understanding their aggregate potential for business process automation.

I often talk with my team about business process automation being the true promise of IoT that has yet to be realized. When we start analyzing a company’s IoT ecosystem in this way, we are seeing massive operations budget savings. We are talking about up to 50%, and sometimes that is in the millions-per-year range. A seven digit plus positive impact is material for a business of any size, and certainly given the challenges businesses are current facing.  This is not a game of nickels and dimes, it’s an amount that can revolutionize a business. And, optimization requires nothing more than a tool to harness, analyze and display the data a business already has streaming in from existing devices.

When it comes to the future of connected devices, the possibilities are endless and ever-changing. New devices, networks and carriers will come and go. One thing that will stay the same is the power of an optimized network and the insights that can only be achieved with a global view of connected devices. That is the true potential of IoT, and that is how businesses will need to adapt to succeed in the 5G world because, after all, automating a bad process is not good practice. Running dynamic, iterative processes to optimize your business is good practice.