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Tech Week: a glimpse into the future of the Internet of Things

If there’s one industry where buzzwords and hype are de rigueur, it’s probably tech. Fuelled by innovation and new developments, each new platform, piece of software or device is hailed as the next big thing. Until the next big thing, that is.

There are some mainstays – the internet or the cloud for example – but often, new trends will have disappeared before the opportunity arises for any real critical assessment. So, it was refreshing to hear Dennis Curry, VP & Director of Business Innovation (EU/EMEA), for Konica Minolta, a major office services provider, talking critically about the future of the Internet of Things and what the future of connectedness can tangibly begin to offer for businesses outside of the tech industry.

Demanding more

“We will demand more from data and technology in the future”, declared Curry, just as we have done with the cloud. The future of the Internet of Things is not just about the excitement around fridges and radiators with Matrix style telekinetic powers, but about the serious consideration of how technology will change the way we live and work. The problem is, until we move beyond hype, the true potential of this technology will always remain just beyond reach.

The real power of the technology lies not so much in devices themselves, but in the advanced insights and data processing opportunities they offer. In this regard, Curry spoke about a “digital cortex” – a world where devices and sensors work more collaboratively to help us understand our environments faster and with greater clarity. Better insights matter because they will enable us to make better predictions, and therefore better decisions about the future.

In 2008 it was found that there were more connected devices than people on the planet. That means more data than ever before, so the challenge that the Internet of Things needs to address is analysing data that offers actionable insights as quickly as possible. Curry offered the example of being able to not only predict the flow of earthquake tremors, but also channel that energy into alternative spaces. But what does this mean for business?

Better customer relations

The true value of the Internet of Things is the ability not only to strengthen the impact of marketing, but also to empower businesses to offer faster, flexible and more relevant customer service. Nike’s fuel band is a case in point – the bands gather data such as customer running routes, which are then used to make decisions such as where to place billboards, inform interactive campaigns and even where to build new stores. Airlines are able to monitor issues in real time and quickly implement repairs – across the board being able to move quickly means that businesses are able to address and prevent problems, and therefore save time and money

Empowering workspaces

In addition to improving services, the other exciting prospect the Internet of Things offers is more intuitive workspaces. We already see this in buildings that operate heating and lighting in a responsive way, for example by switching on and off based on need. In the future, Curry hopes that we will see the rise of what he referred to as more ‘empowering’ workspaces. This means more ‘hybrid computing’ – so servers that function collaboratively and dynamically to deliver flexible services. Simply put, the platforms and systems we work on will become more adaptive, and much more tailored. The data generated will mean systems will respond to business needs on an ad hoc basis – meaning that employees will eventually be able to self-serve and create the kind of algorithms they need to solve particular problems or deliver particular projects, without having to have in-depth knowledge of technology.  In essence we’ll see an ‘office as service’ model, similar to the ‘cloud as service’ model. Working environments will be tailored to working processes, and empower staff to become much more efficient.

The promise of a better tomorrow

The Internet of Things is already changing the healthcare industry and big businesses with technology that can make predictions on patient prognosis, or employee absence. But when will we see this future of possibilities trickle down into the mainstream, and when, as an audience member asked, will businesses be able to access this technology?

“Increased connectivity means increased mush. We need to create more accessibility and make this technology easier. As more big businesses invest in the technology, and more consumers respond to services offered, we’ll see this technology trickle down and become more mainstream.”

It may take a few years for the masses to enjoy this new technology, as it’s often a question of financial investment, and the pioneering efforts of the tech industry to make the technology simpler. Curry said that the current focus was about development to make things more accessible to everyone in spite of their level of knowledge and expertise, “It a question of, how do we build universal platforms to help people work more efficiently?”

Once that question is cracked, Curry concluded, “We’ll see the true value of the Internet of Things.”

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