It’s Time to Get Acquainted With the Internet of Things

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It’s Time to Get Acquainted With the Internet of Things


The technology of the future is here, and for many business owners the time to adjust is right now, before they are forced to deal with situations that arise that could put a significant damper on their outfit’s profitability. The Internet of Things (IoT), as it’s now known, is the deployment of products that have Internet connectivity, and thus, can be controlled remotely. The “smart” device trend began a few years back and now consumers can expect to see an ever-growing number of products with this capability made available by companies. The problem is, these companies often have ulterior motives.

Bottom line, the technology behind IoT devices is critical for the modern business owner to understand, as it will undeniably affect everything about your business in the years to come. The concept is simple, by taking the goods that humans have come to rely on, and adding network connectivity to them, manufacturers (and their development teams) can innovate these goods to be more valuable for the manufacturer (and, in theory, the consumer). The data these devices collect can be packaged and sold to advertising and marketing agencies, and other organizations that have an interest in human behavior. Consent from the consumer is usually granted through a corresponding service agreement.

Over the course of the past decade, increased connectivity, and this infiltration of advertising and marketing into the digital constructs people use, have conditioned the average consumer to be skeptical of any product or service that requires the release of personal information. Once consent is procured, however, there is very little a consumer can do to protect him/herself against the sale of their behavioral data. This trend is big data, and it will have some major effects on the way organizations do business, the types of technologies are developed, and people from all walks of life.

Are These Smart Products Helping People Get Smarter?
Yes and no. The more people begin to rely on these Internet-connected devices, the less they know; but, the less they have to know. You’ve seen this trend at work for businesses for some time. Something as simple as a spell check has made it basically unnecessary for people to know how to spell even basic words. That’s just one example of technology making it easier for humans to rely on the systems for assistance. With big data, and its sister technology, machine learning, it’s only a matter of time until this assistance turns into full on automation.

The more humans are inferior at tasks, the more they are taken out of the loop and replaced with machines. This automation creates a potential windfall for businesses looking to enhance operational efficiency and security, but leaves humanity behind. Ultimately, the growth of the Internet of Things is going to have major effects on human beings, but not because it’s going to make consumers’ lives so much easier, but because there are sure to be a major loss of jobs through automation.

In a study conducted by McKinsey & Company, it was found that the technical feasibility of a person’s job being automated is tied to human interaction itself. In fact, the company explains that determining whether your work is less or more apt to be automated can be done most simply by “analyzing work activities rather than occupations”. That’s not to say that occupations themselves aren’t taken into account, but the study found that nearly 40 percent of the jobs humans currently do will ultimately be automated. A 2013 paper released by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne of Oxford University suggested that number to be slightly higher (47 percent).

People that work jobs doing “predictable physical work” are three times more likely to have their job automated than those who do “unpredictable physical work”. Other activities that are at high risk for automation, unsurprisingly include “data processing” and “data collection” while jobs that are relatively safe from automation are “managing people” and “applying expertise to decision making, planning, and creative tasks.”

The Internet of Things will push automation systems far and beyond anything you’ve seen today. By connecting everything to everything else, the only party seemingly left out of the loop are, you guessed it, human beings. Many business owners see this as a logical fallacy. The chairman of UK-based retailer Timpson, John Timpson explains, “It’s an example of statistics flying in the face of common sense. People will always be at the heart of a successful business. If you want a formula for a great business you have to fill it with great people. No amount of robots can replace that.”

Ultimately, the IoT and the automated systems provided from increased levels of machine learning are a concern. “The big money is on two things: zero unscheduled downtime and resource efficiency,” says Bill Ruh, GE’s VP of software, “Neither sound sexy but they are in reality the two sexiest things because the amount of money to made is incredibly high.” This suggests businesses will be leveraging IoT, big data, and machine learning into productivity through automation. Chris Wilder, an IoT analyst for Moor Insights & Strategy in Austin, Texas goes a step further, “There is no doubt that many jobs will become obsolete or outdated as the Internet of Things grows.”

So many questions are created by these exciting technologies. Is the deployment of technologies inherent in IoT (such as machine learning) going to lead to humans creating a true AI? Will consumers see the benefits of this shift in technology? Do new fields emerge that make the IoT beneficial for humanity as a whole? Or is our business’ quest for the most efficient and cost-effective solutions going to leave many people behind? We’d love to hear your thoughts about these topics in the comments section below.