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InfoQ Homepage Articles How the Internet of Things will Impact our Productivity

How the Internet of Things will Impact our Productivity

The Internet of Things is a phenomenon many people talk about, but most fail to understand its nature and implications on the future of our daily lives – including our economic and individual productivity. According to a Harvard economist, Michael Porter, the Internet of Things has the potential to boost the efficiency of enterprises in driving the market towards innovation. On the individual level, technologies which are part of the Internet of Things will make professionals more productive than ever – effectively changing the face of work organization and management. Here's a detailed overview of how the Internet of Things will make us all more efficient in the near future.

What exactly is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a phrase that many experts think doesn’t accurately capture the idea behind the increasing number of smart, connected objects. The name doesn't really emphasize the new opportunities it represents and perhaps that's why many people find the concept of the Internet of Things hard to understand in itself.

The internet part of the equation serves as a mechanism for communication, which in the sense of objects means transmitting information. The other part of the equation – things – refers to a growing number of smart, connected objects that fundamentally change the nature of things as we're used to understand them. Their connectivity expands their capabilities and generates valuable data which, for instance, helps companies to better understand consumer behavior.

How will the Internet of Things impact the economy at large?

Michael Porter is a Harvard economist recognized for his work on competition. His analyses have been extensively covered by the media – he famously claimed that the existing IT and Internet-driven innovation have already played themselves out and what we've been enjoying for the last 10 or 15 years was a "pretty dismal" economy. Things are about to change, however, with the arrival of the Internet of Things, which he expects will deliver "tremendous" efficiency gains.

The Internet of Things will help individual companies to limit the waste factor in global economies in more effective ways. Products which are connected to the web can communicate how they're being used or their current status. In the near future, Porter predicts that this data will be used to schedule maintenance when it's really needed, not according to a set of inefficient rules that negatively impact the productivity of many a customer service.

Usage data, on the other hand, will feed back into predictive analytics which will be used to reduce failures and improve product design. In sum, all those functionalities will boost the efficiency of our products and increase their value, inspiring a surge of productivity and innovation.

The IoT will change how manufacturers and service companies interact with customers as well. Today a business sells a product to a customer and expects them to reach out in case something goes wrong – hence our reliance on massive call centers and developed customer service departments. The IoT is clearly about to change this fact – products will be directly connected to a service assessing their condition before taking relevant action.

Here are some possible ways in which IoT will creep into our daily lives and revolutionize the ways in which we work, manage our teams in project development and develop relationships with customers.

1. Getting the most from our time

IoT will render our smartphones to serve as remote controls regulating various aspects of our daily lives. A revolutionary things about IoT lies in the fact that our devices will in a way know us and help us save time – through mobile payments or dedicated geo-location systems to help us quickly get form one place to another.

Our smartphones will interact at an increasing rate with our surroundings, which will be enriched with sensors we won't even see. Those will provide our mobile devices with valuable information and act on our behalf when accessing apps, helping us to save time on doing it manually.

Take this example – it's morning and you’re in a rush to get quickly to your office. Walking past the door of a cafe will alert the barista of your order based on order history. You'll then confirm or choose something else and quickly pay for it with your mobile phone. All those little things grouped together will help us to save lots of time and be more focused at work, significantly improving our productivity.

2. Adaptation

Even if IoT technologies will make the lives of professionals easier on many levels, the revolution will inspire changes in every industry – some claim that literally every business and sector will be disrupted over the next three decades. All this will force workers to adapt to new working environments and standards in business practice – and it will be definitely worth the effort.

A good example of such a large-scale disruption that had a major impact on a sector is movie rental business. With the arrival of Netflix, Blockbuster was pretty much over. The web helped providers to improve the entire logistics of exchanging DVDs and removed all those late fees we'd always fall victim to. Users can now choose from a far wider offer at a significantly lower cost – converting physical atoms into bits of information is the most productive change that could happen to the DVD rental industry.

3. Even more data

As you can imagine, IoT will be nothing short of a data machine – enterprises will be able to collect more data than ever. And this will motivate them to rethink their analysis strategies and push managers to learn and adapt to new forms of data intelligence. Needless to say, with the amount of data generated by IoT, we'll require new or expanded roles for data analysts and strategists.

Enterprises confronted with a flood of data coming from all the connected objects and devices will require proper tools to make sense of it and analyze it to infer about consumer or workforce trends. Managers will be able to closely monitor the behaviors and habits of their teams, picking up on things that can be improved and modifying enterprise policies or working environments to match the needs of professionals and help them become more productive.

IoT data will inform planning on many different levels and will become a factor in staying competitive on the market. Constant access to information will help enterprises to tailor their operation and meet the requirements of customer demand, trends, as well as its internal life.

4. Constant access to geo-location data

Since it's based on location, IoT has a potential to render the workplace life and business processes much more productive and efficient than they are today. A significant way IoT will increase productivity and efficiency lies in making location tracking way more simple – and seamless!

Internet-connected objects and devices will all be geographically tagged, saving workers lots of time on hunting them down. It will also save enterprises money by reducing the loss rate.

Adopting IoT technologies, companies will be able to track every aspect of their business – managing inventory, locating and deploying field service staff or fulfilling orders as quickly as possible. Every single tool, factory and vehicle will be connected to one system and constantly reporting on their locations, making the lives of many managers way easier.

5. Enhanced daily commute

We all know that daily commute is a great loss of time and can negatively impact our productivity – think being stuck every morning in a long traffic jam and you get the picture. IoT is expected to revolutionize our daily commute as the interconnectivity of mobile devices, vehicles and road systems will effectively help professionals to reduce travel time, enabling them to get to work faster or run regular errands in record time.

Just think about what's happening on the car front in IoT. AT&T jointly with manufacturers like GM and BMW are adding right now LTE connectivity functionality to cars and in the process creating brand new connected services – for instance, real-time traffic information, real-time diagnostics for the front seat or even “infotainment” for users in the back seat.

Every element of the street – from stoplights to street signs – will be integrated into a coherent whole – sensors will analyze traffic patterns and adjust light operation to minimize traffic jams. No more being stuck in traffic – sounds like a dream, doesn't it? But it might soon become reality.

6. Remote mobile device management (MDM)

Another great productivity boost will be experienced by IT departments through MDM. Having remote access to computers and mobile devices at the company is not everything – IT managers will also be able to remote control other connected devices.

Such remote-access technologies will enable executives to have full control over smartphones and tablets, but also enable remote management over other devices, for instance Android cameras and set-top boxes. Imagine the potential of remote controlling worker devices – managers will gain a clear understanding of every individual's work processes and pass key information to other team members without waiting for the device user to read the message and respond.

IoT-connected employees will have a greater chance at establishing stronger collaboration practices by having their devices automatically communicate with each other. Experts claim that platforms for such remote control of IoT devices will appear any day now.

The Internet of Things in the future

IoT and tech professionals

It's clear that having countless devices sending a constant stream of data will require the tech industry to not only handle the massive amount of information or find new efficient ways to program those networks and devices, but also accommodate those new sources into their practice.

One of the most serious challenges in managing and analyzing IoT data is the current lack of suitable platforms for handling this data model. Dealing with a surge of millions to billions records per second – where each needs to be parsed, indexed and stored on disk – is impossible if our best solution is memory storage.

Similarly, tech experts will have to come up with accurate support for spatial joints and spatiotemporal queries. Another area of interest will be real-time operational analytics systems which will allow data available for ingest become simultaneously available for query. Many think that neither stream or batch processing systems can do that for the IoT data models.

Current solutions like Hadoop, Cassandra or PostgreSQL simply cannot support the workload at their architectural level because they weren't designed for handing the volume, velocity, spatial and real-time nature of data generated in IoT data models.

Security and Privacy

One of the most serious concerns about IoT is its security – mostly because there exist some real reasons one should consider before delving into the technology. First of all, there's definitely more at stake now – imagine a person who manages to hack into the operating system of an object on an automatic car driving in the city.

Then there are concerns about the possible ease with which such devices can be attacked – many have neither the processing power nor requisite pieces like anti-virus software to protect themselves. Developers of the technology claim security to be their top priority for the future of IoT – it's easily the biggest challenge it the field.

Another important concern is user privacy in IoT reality, where managers are able to track every movement of devices, such as company cars or smartphones. At which point will having access to such data become stalking? This is a question which needs to be addressed before IoT devices become popular – especially since the current cloud architectures don't offer any viable solutions.

Considering the matter of privacy in the context of IoT is an interesting thought exercise – after all, at which point data becomes private? What sort of policies would IoT providers establish to ensure that their clients' need for privacy is satisfied? We'll see the answer to those questions unfold in the near future as IoT technologies mature.

Despite all those challenges, the majority of experts agree that the future of the IoT looks bright. The new technology is expected to bring about a host of new products, new businesses and even new ways of thinking about objects – all guiding us towards new levels of productivity.

About the Author

Torri Myler is part of the team at - a UK bank branches opening times and closing hours platform. She is passionate about all things tech- and digital-related and believes in their great potential to empower businesses and individuals. She combines a strong IT expertise with her love for new technologies.

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