Going mobile and the Internet of Things

The emergence of the internet and social media platforms has played a key role in the Data Explosion, as we discussed in Step 1.5.

Another trend that is contributing to this explosion is the incredible growth in the number of ‘connected’ devices: devices which can connect to the internet, often wirelessly. This huge variety of devices is frequently referred to as ‘The Internet of Things’, or IoT. Jacob Morgan at Forbes has described the IoT as follows:

Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig … The IoT is a giant network of connected “things” (which also includes people). The relationship will be between people-people, people-things, and things-things.

As Morgan explains, connected devices have moved beyond computers and phones, and now include thermostats, watches, printers, sports equipment, cars and much, much more. This trend is also showing no sign of stopping.

Infographic showing the growth in world population and number of connected devices per person over time, from 2003 to 2020

As illustrated in the infographic above, the Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) at Cisco forecasts that the number of connected devices per person will increase to 6.58 in 2020, an increase of more than 80 times since 2003. When combined with the growth of the world population, this means there could be as many as 50 billion devices by 2020, all of which will be creating and sharing data.

Morgan explains how this trend could benefit our daily lives. For example, if your car has access to your digital calendar, the car could automatically provide directions to the location of a meeting, or send a message to someone if you are running late. On a much larger scale, the IoT could help us to develop “smart cities” where devices could be used to monitor things like the weather, water quality and traffic levels, then switch other devices such as street lights on or off according to the conditions, in order to make our cities more efficient.

There are some potential risks and challenges related to the IoT, particularly around cyber security, data sharing and privacy. For more information on the IoT, you can read Jacob Morgan’s full article here.

Do you use any of the connected devices shown in the infographic? What impact do you think the Internet of Things will have on your life in future?

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Business Analytics: The Data Explosion

Kogod School of Business at American University

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