What is the Internet of Things and What does it Mean for UC?

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Analysts at Cisco are estimating we will be 50 billion devices deep into the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020. IoT, by its most basic definition, is the intersection and interconnection of devices to other devices, and the Internet, or other networks. When you hear the term “Internet of Things”, if you think wireless, you are correct, but it is so much more than that. Sensors can be inserted into anything—from wearable objects to manufacturing equipment—to collect, interpret, and share data that provides valuable intelligence to the user.

For those of us in the Unified Communications (UC) industry, the onus is on us to be at the forefront of solutions regarding IoT, especially when Gartner reports there will be nearly five billion connected “things” by the end of this year. Some of the issues we tackle today—control, mobility, cost—will only be amplified going forward with so many connected devices and technologies.

Statistics are helpful in imagining the possibilities for UC, as it relates to IoT. Here are some of the more interesting ones that we’ve come across for you to consider as you adjust your sights on the future:

  • Enterprises worldwide are set to spend ~$86 million each, in 2015 on IoT initiatives. US based groups will surpass that spending an average of $107 million, according to a report from Tata Consultancy Services, shared via thevarguy.com.
  • The same report says many U.S. enterprises implementing IoT technologies come from UC related vertical industries such as: banking, financial services, travel, hospitality, telecommunications, and healthcare.
  • According to an article on recode.net, there are competing groups backed by some of the world’s largest multinational corporations trying to decipher and write code for unifying communications among the multitude of devices. Which group will establish these industry standards in the end remains to be seen, but the fact, that to date there is no unified consortium could mean competing platforms in the future, and devices that don’t “talk” to each other (much like the choices we face currently with our mobile devices/operating systems). Will companies offering UC solutions be forced to choose what platforms to enhance and support?
  • The issues of privacy and security become exaggerated through the sheer magnitude of the devices that will be connected through the IoT as pointed out on netiq.com. The argument for transparency or privacy will play out in the IoT world. Will UC companies be ready with solutions for issues surrounding collaboration or compliance when it comes to IoT?

Here in 2015, as we sit at the precipice of the IoT, one can only wonder how it will unfold and shape the process. Case studies tell us that early adopters are already seeing increased productivity and return on investment with implementation of IoT technology. Looking at the predicted exponential development of the IoT can only suggest that extreme innovation and proactive decision-making will deliver successful UC solutions related to this emerging, dynamic, landscape of possibilities.

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Darlene Jackson is a published writer with many years of experience in digital publishing, advertising, and public relations. Her diverse assignments include stints with Chicago Public Media, The Chicago Tribune, and various print and online media and communication outlets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree at Northwestern University.

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