Internet of Things: The Rise of Connected Businesses and Connected Lives

By Harnath Babu, Chief Information Officer, KPMG India

Your boss is running late for work, and your meeting has been postponed by an hour. Your calendar informs your alarm clock to give you an extra hour of sleep. Meanwhile, your GPS re-routes the way to work as per the traffic conditions.

You just stepped out of your home but forgot to carry your keys. Your ‘smart’ door sends you a message and delays locking the main door for 30 seconds so that you can take the keys, if need be.

Now after a long day at work, you are heading home, and you decide to visit the nearby supermarket to buy groceries. Your intelligent coffee vending machine sends you a SMS to inform that the coffee is over, and you might like to buy some more.

This is not the plot of a sci-fi movie. This is the world of the Internet of Things!

Having the potential to streamline menial everyday tasks and make people’s lives easier, the Internet of Things(IoT) is quickly picking up momentum and improving both our lives and businesses in a myriad of ways. The numbers prove it: While in 2003, there were over 2.3 billion people and 500 million devices connected to the internet, the latter is likely to grow to 50 billion connected devices by the year 2020.

IoT is the term that describes a world of devices and people connected to each other through the internet. Though it may sound like a futuristic term, IoT is already here, and is undoubtedly here to stay. It represents an enormous jump in the internet’s development, as networks move beyond our computers to household appliances, automobiles and security systems – simplifying our everyday lives. Very soon, connected ‘things’ will become part and parcel of our daily lives, and they will communicate with each other or people via advanced technologies such as 4G, broadband, Wi-Fi, Radio-Frequency Identification
(RFID), etc.

One of the core areas where the Internet of Things is making a strong foothold is the healthcare sector. There are several devices such as fitness and health bands, calorie calculators, heart rate monitors, to name a few that can take the healthcare experience a notch higher and help in improving the quality of life of people. For instance, a wearable fitness device can sense a person’s vital signs and notify the healthcare provider when a certain threshold has been reached, or simply monitor the user’s heart rate and adjust the proportion of equity and debt funds, diversifying the user’s risk exposure from equities.

Even insurers these days are leveraging vehicle telematics to collate richer data of vehicles and drivers, keep a tab on the driver’s patterns including speed, acceleration, braking, cornering, etc., and reward insured drivers for driving safely.

If we look at the retail market, there are beacons that facilitate a new way of in-store interaction between retailers and customers. Hypothetically, this is what a typical scenario would look like: A customer carrying a smartphone walks into a supermarket. Having installed apps that can interact with beacons, the customer receives a welcome message from the store and is alerted about special offers and product recommendations. And as the customer makes his/her way towards the store’s food section, a list of available grocery promotions moves to the top of his/her news feed.

Besides the unprecedented opportunities, this latest wave of technological change is likely to bring a number of new challenges as well as risks. The ‘smarter’ things become, the more scope they have for misuse. Always being connected to the objects around increases the possibility of greater surveillance, more scams, fraud, hacking and cyber-attacks. And to combat the data security and privacy issues, the need is to implement stronger security frameworks that safeguard critical data and help in maintaining complete data security.

What next?

Are you still dreaming about having a coffee machine that can send you a message as and when the coffee gets over so that you can buy more? Or a smart refrigerator that automatically adds staples to your shopping list as and when you run out of them? Stop dreaming. The Internet of Things is already empowering devices around you.

From smartphones, watches, cars to even homes, connected technologies are gradually transforming our lives – certainly for the better. Objects are no longer just objects, they now have brains. And perhaps the day is not far away when we will be able to interact with all types of devices as long as they are connected to the internet.

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