Looking back over the past two decades, many technologies have emerged that have revolutionised the way the world works, interacts and communicates. However, none have been as disruptive as the Internet as a force for change. The impact of the creation of a global network of connectedness has touched both the consumer and business space, and has set the world up for the next evolution in technology – the Internet of Things (IoT). Together with Unified Communications (UC), the IoT is set to once again fundamentally shift the way the world operates, changing everything from how we work and how our cars drive to how cities operate on a broader scale. Together, these technologies represent the next wave of innovation, and businesses that are able to leverage them effectively stand to benefit from creating and maintaining the all-important competitive advantage.
“Many devices, from mobile phones to computers, incorporate connectivity today, but this is just the tip of the iceberg, as there is potential for practically any electronic ‘thing’ to incorporate connectivity. According to IDC, currently only 1% of devices are connected. As small as this figure sounds, it still represents in excess of 25 billion devices, and Cisco predicts that within the next five years this figure will double to 50 million. The IoT is shaping up to be significant in 2015, and is set to change the game for business,” says Edward Agostinho, IoT Consultant at Cisco.
Increasing levels of connectivity of previously ‘dumb’ devices is an accelerating phenomenon, and has the potential to change the lives of consumers in ways that are difficult to accurately predict. For business, the challenge lies in embracing the IoT to deliver smart solutions that offer value for the consumer – making their lives easier in some way or form. The possibilities are limitless. For example, smart parking solutions could use sensors in parking bays that, when the consumer with a smartphone is in proximity, alerts the consumer to open bays and potentially even interfaces with GPS technology to direct them to the bay. This seemingly simplistic example could revolutionise the shopping experience – consumers no longer need to spend significant amounts of time searching parking garages for a space, but are directed to one, easing congestion and frustration.
The IoT also has the power to reshape the business world, and UC lies at the heart of enabling enterprises to leverage this to their advantage. The concept of UC is to unify the various platforms of communication into a single, connected interface, and with the IoT rapidly expanding the number of connected ‘things’, UC is more important than ever. For businesses that are able to incorporate communication not just from the standard channels, but from whichever channels will arise in the future, a significant competitive edge can potentially be realised.
“Many organisations already incorporate aspects of UC, however, in order to leverage the potential of the IoT this needs to be extended. The cost of implementing the necessary infrastructure, however, is significant. This is where the IoT and UC collide with another megatrend shaping our world today – the cloud. Cloud services enable organisations to fully embrace UC without needing to invest in infrastructure, bringing the necessary improvements to flexibility, scalability and productivity. In addition, hybrid cloud solutions will allow enterprises to merge their existing infrastructure and solutions with new, cloud-based functionality, driving UC further into business processes than ever before,” says Vishal Barapatre, CTO at In2IT Technologies South Africa.
Communication has changed, from single channel to multimedia, incorporating video, social channels, email and more, all as a result of increasing connectivity. With the IoT emerging, the potential for connected communication channels expands, and building this enablement to deliver and connect is essential. The IoT is not only transforming the way people interact, but also the way they work, as users now more than ever need to be able to leverage full workplace functionality from anywhere at any time. Connectivity and connectedness lie at the heart of many changes that are beginning to emerge, and businesses need to take the first steps in enabling new functionality in order to be well positioned for future opportunities.