Technology has reached a point of convergence. Sensors, data, connectivity, encryption, the cloud, and the software that makes linking them all possible are poised to exponentially increase the opportunities that can be delivered by connecting the “things” in the physical world around us. By 2020, as many as 50 bn devices will be connected, from watches and TVs to trucks, pipelines, and power meters – unlocking enormous potential for the world.
How quickly we reap the benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT) and how broadly its effects can spread will be shaped by key decisions made by business leaders and policymakers alike, according to a report by Software.org: the BSA Foundation. The report, Sensor Sensibility: Getting the Most From the Internet of Things, argues that we have only scratched the surface of what IoT can achieve, and industry and government must be prepared to help this emerging technology succeed.
“The Internet of Things is a community of connected devices,” said Chris Hopfensperger, Executive Director of Software.org: the BSA Foundation. “Innovators are taking everyday things and making them infinitely better by adding computing power and software, and connecting them to the Internet. But we’re not just connecting for connectivity’s sake. These devices open the door to smarter ways to grow our economy, protect the environment, improve public safety, and raise our standards of living. IoT fundamentally transforms the solutions to some of our greatest policy challenges by creating answers that we just couldn’t even produce without it.”
IoT has the potential to drive huge economic gains, generating up to $11.1 trillion a year by 2025 in global economic impact. Many businesses see connected devices as a necessary tool – 58% of decision makers say IoT is strategic to their businesses and another 24% see it as transformational. All sectors of the economy are starting to incorporate connected devices, including:
Health Care: At a time when the United States already spends 18% of its GDP on health care each year, connected devices could reduce such costs by more than $300 billion by increasing access to diagnostic treatments, preventative care, and chronic disease management.
Energy and the Environment: People are already cutting their home heating and cooling costs by as much as 20% simply by telling their homes to turn down the thermostats when they are away. Through energy savings gained by connect devices, greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by as much as 19%.
Agriculture: Connected devices are helping farmers produce more food with fewer resources. Sensors allow farmers to track crop yields, soil nutrition, and rainfall with precision – increasing overall productivity per acre by 15%.
Urban Development: Cities can now connect devices to improve traffic flow, cut crime, better deliver city services, boost local economies, and improve residents’ quality of life.
Transportation: Transportation leaders often turn to connected devices to reduce the hours we spend in congestion every year, link cars in ways that save lives, enable truck fleets to perform real-time engine diagnostics, and identify unsafe driving habits before they become a problem.
In order to achieve the full impact of IoT, the report notes, a number of important challenges must be addressed. Governments and organizations must consider:
Security: Building trust around how data and devices will be secured.
Privacy: Enabling trust in the way privacy is protected.
Workforce: Overcoming a looming skills gap by filling the talent pipeline with more people who can code or pursue other tech-enabled careers.
Free flow of data: Maximizing benefits by ensuring that data can move freely across borders.
Standards: Leveraging global industry-led interoperable standards to maximize network effect opportunities.
Intellectual Property: Ensuring intellectual property protection to foster creativity and innovation.
Cloud Adoption: Encouraging government cloud adoption to enable greater opportunity.
“We are only at the beginning of the digital revolution, and the possibilities are endless,” said Victoria Espinel, President of Software.org: the BSA Foundation. “But we will need smarter policies to accompany and enable this change. As devices all around us become connected, business leaders and policymakers need to start connecting also about how to remove barriers to maximize IoT’s opportunities for consumers, businesses, and society.”