Over the past few years, I have been captivated by the idea of a smarter world made possible by extending the internet to a new class of micronised platforms, some only the size of a fingertip. These connected objects can exist almost anywhere and give us the power to electronically sense and control our physical world like never before.
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises nothing short of a revolution, heightening awareness by enabling data and unlocking insights that can help solve problems, streamline businesses, or have more fun.
Some believe that one trillion objects could be connected to the internet by the end of the decade, generating massive revenues for IT providers. However, the market will struggle to reach anywhere near this size if businesses do not have access to the right skills. So what can we do about this?
An Internet of School Things project was launched in eight UK schools last year. The Technology Strategy Board-funded project aims to teach students about the IoT by giving them access to a host of connected objects and supporting learning materials, powered through an IoT platform.
For example, an environment chamber that can control the growing conditions of exotic plants, internet-connected air-quality monitors, and weather stations that monitor weather conditions remotely in real time.
It gives students the opportunity to experiment with IoT technology while learning about the importance of the environment and how various factors can influence it.
Businesses across the globe are also taking the first steps towards building internet-connected products that may transform their relationships with customers and operational efficiency.
When I speak to businesses, I am seeing a transition from a "what and why" line of questioning to "when and how" when it comes to the IoT. I concluded that more people are recognising potential for tremendous operational efficiencies, revenue boosts and competitive advantages.
For instance, a rubbish collection company could use data from connected bins to know whether a bin is empty. Collectors could use the data to skip past empty bins, improving collection times and efficiency.
To date, telecoms and application providers have largely led the machine-to-machine (M2M) communications market, but the one-stop shop services offered by these companies have been hugely expensive and restrictive.
This has meant that some businesses have been priced out of the market completely and others have had to compromise when developing connected offerings.
Businesses aren't tied to using a single vendor's products or services in the IoT, however. They can pick whichever platform or service is most suited to their needs and budget.
This opens up an enormous opportunity for resellers and systems integrators to offer consultancy services.
The IoT is still a relatively new area and most organisations require help to navigate the confusing array of products and services. The channel will continue to have a big part to play.
Chad Jones is vice president of Internet of Things strategy at LogMeIn
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