The Internet of Things, commonly abbreviated as the IoT, was first conceptualized and named by Kevin Ashton back in 1999. Within just a few years, this concept became a reality. Mobile smart devices were only the beginning. Halfway through the first decade of the new millennium, connectivity began spreading to include more and more everyday objects.

Now, industries are beginning to use smart identifiers (made possible by the IoT) to better track inventory. Wearable trackers monitor health and exercise information for those seeking a more quantifiable workout. Medical devices relay patient vital signs directly to healthcare professionals. The possibilities are endless.

In only a few short years, the IoT has expanded well beyond the imaginings of late 20th-century futurists. As of 2015, there were as many as 15.4 billion connected devices comprising the IoT, and analysts predict that that number will grow to 30.7 billion devices by 2020 and 75.4 billion by 2025.

The IoT has the capacity to change every aspect of modern living, and it is specially suited to the realm of business. Here’s what your company needs to know about the future of the IoT.


Businesses Are Experiencing an IoT Revolution


Over the next decade, the business opportunity represented by the Internet of Things will be worth approximately $14.4 trillion. Inventory management is only the beginning. By taking advantage of IoT technology, businesses are experiencing a number of benefits — as well as new challenges.

Perhaps the most obvious benefit for businesses has to do with customer data. Big data is already a major focus for organizations worldwide. The more a business understands about its customers and its industry, the more its leaders can make informed decisions, adapt to market conditions, and provide a positive client experience. More than 40% of companies around the world rely on big data analysis, citing improved control of operational processes, better customer understanding, and cost reductions as some of the most positive results.

Among some of their more publicized capabilities, Internet of Things devices are uniquely suited for data capture. Over the next two years, marketing leaders expect IoT devices to experience one of the highest growth rates among tools and technologies used — second only to AI. By collecting and relaying a sustained flow of customer data to businesses, organizations can create hypertargeted marketing campaigns, improve cross-sell and upsell success rates, and better gauge the effectiveness of their customer-facing strategies.

Of course, where there is data, there are also concerns about customer privacy. Businesses should be forthright with their clients about what kind of data is being collected and what should be off-limits.

Constantly connected products also make it possible for businesses to provide proactive support. The number of service teams using IoT nearly doubled from 2015 to 2016, rising from 27% to 53%. As products encounter problems or are due for regular maintenance, messages can automatically be sent to both the customer and the company’s service department. That way the customer service department can get started on creating and solving the case right away — without the customer reaching out first.

Updates to products’ core functions can also be implemented directly, without having to bother customers with reminders or prompts. High-performing customer service teams are 4.1x more likely than underperformers to say that IoT/connected products will have a transformational impact on their service organization by 2020.

IoT technology can likewise improve business visibility. Built-in tracking technology allows clients to track packages and as well as field-service agents, for more accurate timetables and fewer missed deadlines. Organizations can also use IoT advancements to better monitor their own processes and employees, enhancing productivity, reducing costs, and optimizing output.

On the other hand, this IoT revolution means increased customer expectations. As the IoT becomes more prevalent, customers will demand more connection and an ever-greater capacity for smart capabilities in everyday items. Businesses that are unable to keep up with this change in expectations may find themselves left behind.


What Should Your Business Be Aware Of?


With Internet of Things devices opening up so many new possibilities, many businesses are rushing to dive right in. However, before expanding into this new digital frontier, there are certain things that business leaders and decision makers should understand.

First, be aware of the costs associated with building connectivity into your tools and products. Current trends indicate that those costs are well worth the investment. However, as with anything in business, proper strategy is key. While investing in Internet of Things devices is becoming less expensive, this investment should be made only after a specific strategy and goals are firmly established.

Next, make sure that your business is prepared to handle the influx of customer data that IoT-enhanced products are likely to deliver. CRM tools and big data platforms may be a necessity, especially if you plan on effectively analyzing all of the new information you collect from these devices. After all, raw information left to stagnate in data lakes isn’t going to bring your organization much value at all. The right data analysis platform will be able to connect business action with the IoT, turning unstructured data into real, actionable insights.

Your data storage infrastructure is vital to your ability to effectively manage your data, so be sure that it is in place before you commit to your IoT strategy.

Finally, recognize that Internet of Things devices must be vetted for 100% security. The truth is that every new connected device is another potential security risk. Critical vulnerabilities in IoT devices open up new avenues of attack for cyber criminals — and just as those devices can be used to collect customer data for your business, they can also give hackers access to personal identity information. Before you take your first step into the IoT, make sure that your security standards are sufficient and that you're using a secure, trusted platform.


The Future Belongs to Internet of Things Devices


The internet is a big place, and now that we’re extending connectivity beyond computers and making it possible for everyday objects to share digital information, it’s getting a lot bigger.

There’s more to the IoT than simply networking devices together. IoT advances, coupled with advanced CRM technology, are making it possible for businesses to bring device data and customer data together, for a more accurate view of their customers than ever before.

Smart wearables, intelligent inventories, and always-online medical devices have paved the way for connected devices of all shapes and sizes, and when organizations put these devices to work, the gains are significant. See what advantages the IoT can bring to your business, and get ready to connect on a whole new level.