That's, "Hold My Beer While I Explain Like I'm 5, Internet of Things, Ok?"
I had a great question come up about 5 minutes ago on our Facebook page by my friend, the IVR Voice, Allison Smith. It's 7:30 on a Friday night and yeah, I've cracked a local San Diego IPA and was settling into a long night of dorking around on the Internet. I love the question and needed more room than Facebook allows, though:
"What exactly is "Internet of Things" and how can I use it for my business? Talk to me like I'm five..."
Ok, let's do this! First part of the question, answered in the simplest terms possible.
What exactly is the Internet of Things?
Well, you'll get exactly a million answers because there's no *exact* answer. It's important to note that this technology is still evolving. Liat Ben-Zur, Chairman of the AllSeen Alliance was recently quoted in TechRadar saying "We're still in diapers!" And while I'm sure she wasn't thrilled that's the phrase the reporter happened to lead with and which subsequently was retweeted endlessly, it's true.
If the simple explanation of the Internet is what happens when people and their computers are connected to servers, then the Internet of Things is what comes next. The Internet of Things is what happens when Things that are not typically considered computers get a little smarter and connect to the network too. They can suddenly "talk" to us, to servers, and to each other.
It gets especially interesting when things that have existed for a while, suddenly become connected. Remember that year at Astricon (woah, that was 2007?) when someone put an Asterisk VoIP phone system in a Roomba? Pioneering stuff towards IoT!
As cool as I think my Dyson is, my vaccuum, this dumb thing in my closet, might someday soon have some sensors in it and be able to hop on my home network and tell it's story. It could tell its story to me, to the people at Dyson, and to my network connected HEPA air filter. Add in some automation (air filter, get your act together, there's too much dog hair in them thar carpets) and some analytics and reporting (Dyson, send me a coupon for a replacement brush, this is getting out of hand!) and suddenly we're at the place where value is created.
I am somewhat afraid that someday soon my bathroom scale (which is connected to my network today) will talk to my fridge (which isn't yet).
And so on to the second part of the question...
How can I use IoT for my business?
This is a huge question, but the most obvious answer lies between the consumers and the manufacturers of these smart products. As a consumer, I want better products. An air filter that just knows it needs to crank up its settings because the vaccuum reported more dirt in the carpets than usual is better than one that I have to manually turn up (even if I *can* control it from my smart phone).
Meanwhile, manufacturers are in a race to make better products so that they can sell more of them to delighted customers. One thing that can truly help them in this endevor is to measure what their things are doing & how their things are being used: also known as Analytics. That's the piece Tellient does: Analytics for Things. We help manufacturers collect the data from their things, compile it, sort through it into actual insights so they can make their products better.
The coolest part is most of them haven't ever been able to do this before.
Ask a web developer how many times a visitor to the best performing blog post on their website clicked the "Subscribe to this Blog" button and you better believe they know the answer, have tested variations of that button, and improved both the button and the post over time.
Ask a microwave manufacturer how many times the popcorn button was pressed vs. the baked potato button on microwaves in the Northeastern United States last week and they cannot tell you the answer. It's not pageviews, it's not conversions, so something new is needed to measure and analyze: Analytics for Things.
Just Scratching the Surface
The Internet of Things is so much more interesting than "stuff you can control with your phone" though those things are very cool. Stoplights, assembly lines, football helmets, and so much more will be connected. And they're going to generate an almost unfathomable amount of data. The Internet of Things is simply dwarfing the internet as we know it. If we can make sense of it all, it presents an opportunity that can benefit both consumers and manufacturers.