Only 4 years ago in 2016, a Survey in the US found that 4 out of 5 Americans had not heard of the Internet of Things. It describes the network of physical objects that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the Internet.
The most real example of that for you and I is the smartphone we take everywhere with us. Your Smart phone has been getting cleverer in your pocket and now the Internet of Things is accelerating change in our lives and ushering us rapidly into a period of dramatic change. Again.
We have over 50 billion devices connected to the internet already, that’s 7 per human, but it’s the next ten years that is attention grabbing, with expectations of growth to over 500 billion by 2030.
So as a leader if you have not already begun to embrace data and opportunities to collect it and analyse it you are about to be overrun by a Tsunami of it. This matters to all leaders because it will shape the future of all our organisations. McKinsey’s Global Institute predicts IoT will have an economic impact of between $4 trillion and $11 trillion by 2025.
The question is not do I need to swim? But rather if you want to survive this next disruption, can you swim?
Next to this massive growth in Data availability the second accelerator of IoT has been advances in Connectivity. If we take just one area of IoT, say remote sensors in water utilities, we have had sensor technology for some time that was robust in terms of connecting sensors, but they were only useful as monitors to say “I’m too hot” or “I’m broken – please fix me”.
With GPRS and now 5G offering us a continuous data stream, we have two way dialogue with a device meaning we can add control. When I say control I hope your leader’s senses are raised. This has revolutionised IoT from an intelligence perspective, because centralised decisions can be made which allow the control of remote devices. For example – the device may say “the water level is too high in the reservoir” – the answer from the central system “please discharge water downstream”.
Of course, if the wrong reservoir was emptied the consequences would be serious and so we reach the third element of IoT’s recent rapid development, Security. The biggest IoT security risks involve software. Software attacks can exploit entire systems, steal information, alter data, deny service and compromise or damage devices.
Many IoT devices still present a cyber-security risk because they are based on old protocols and easily hackable, but this is changing rapidly and security is increasingly being baked in at the design stage, but as we move towards a future where more and more processing is done at the point of data collection, the edge, there is still much to address.
So what does all this mean for us as a Digital Leader?
Organisations have to see IoT as an opportunity or face a bleak future. As Leaders we should already be shaping overall strategy by placing particular emphasis on how digital technologies are continually changing and the opportunities this presents our organisation.
It’s now about senior leaders recognising IoT’s impact and understanding the art of the possible, starting with the culture of their organisation, not strategy. It’s about moving to a culture that can keep pace with constant change, where new models of working and plenty of collaboration are energising rather than frightening. So as leaders, let’s ensure we accept that we truly face the Internet of everything and learn to swim.
This blog was first posted in The Times