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July 28, 2016
The Internet of Things: The digitisation of everything
By: Michael Hobbs

First in a series

Although it may seem futuristic, the Internet of Things—a global network of sensors, machines, products and Internet-based computing power and communications—is already here. Think of the IoT as the "digitisation of the world," connecting almost everything and everybody.

You may already have a “smart home,” for example—solutions enabling you to monitor the home’s temperature, lighting and security systems remotely, through Internet connectivity.

Or you may have a connected car—a telematics-enabled, rolling computer network that can monitor its performance and send data to a dealer or to your car’s dashboard, or can be displayed on your phone. (You might also be able to lock or unlock your car remotely, or access a myriad of services including entertainment, guidance or safety.)

Business transformation

A great deal of attention is being paid to how the Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the commercial and industrial worlds. That’s understandable. Consider a locomotive made by GE that is equipped with 250 sensors that monitor 150,000 data points per minute, helping to predict and reduce maintenance issues.

Or how about a "connected smart ship" that will enable ship owners to better manage their fleets and achieve operational savings through digital technologies. That’s what Hyundai Heavy Industries and Accenture created.

In many cases, creating new revenue streams from the IoT means transforming a traditional manufacturer into a services provider. Take Michelin—just a tire manufacturer, right? No longer. Working with Accenture, Michelin has launched a new business—Michelin Solutions—to deliver a range of innovative mobile services to business customers to help them manage fuel efficiency and tyre management across fleets of vans and trucks.

Consumer transformation

But beyond its commercial applications, the IoT is transforming the world of consumers—and of society itself—in new and startling ways. Beyond smart homes and connected cars are IoT applications that improve the quality of people’s health and safety. How about a digital tool that captures data from patients and healthcare professionals via mobile devices, integrating patient safety information through a flexible platform that adapts to user and data volume. It’s a solution from Novartis and Accenture.

Or how about a pacemaker that signals you when its performance has changed so you can alert your doctor before real problems occur?

And the telematics features in cars that are about much more than maintenance and entertainment. The US National Safety Council estimates that almost half of all fatalities and injuries come from rear-end collisions. So telematics features that automatically slow a vehicle before impact might save thousands of lives.

Societal benefits: Fighting climate change

Here’s a benefit of the IoT that might surprise you. A study from Ericsson notes that, "we could see for the first time a simultaneous reduction of industries' environmental footprint, thanks to energy savings and smarter solutions." More specifically, information and communication technologies could help cut up to 63.5 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The future belongs to the innovators

Given the IoT’s potential for disruption of industries and consumer behaviours, the future will belong to innovators willing to rethink their business models and explore the digital technologies that can create connected products and services. That’s one reason why Accenture has launched an Internet of Things Centre of Excellence for Resources. The centre will help companies explore solutions based on intelligent connected devices and machines that comprise the IoT. It will help agriculture, forestry, metals, mining, oil and gas, chemicals and utilities companies to harness innovation and create new digital services and business models.

Capitalising on the IoT’s full potential

Certainly there are challenges ahead for companies wanting to capitalise on the full potential of the IoT. The IoT ecosystem is extremely complex and can be daunting for enterprises. To better understand the potential benefits of the IoT, organisations should consider starting with a small pilot use case and rigorously analyse the results. Pilots can provide guidance and real data within weeks, making it much simpler to build a business case for IoT in the context of a company’s unique operating environment.

The IoT provides opportunities for organisations to affect society and the communities in which they operate. It also improves operational efficiency and digitises existing services. It offers rich potential for those that make equipment and products to introduce new digital products and services, creating entirely new sources of revenue and new value propositions to consumers.

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