If you’re reading this as we’ve published it, welcome to 2018! We’re doing something a little different today, and running a future-focused piece in the spirit of the New Year. If you’re reading this sometime later (but maybe not too much later)…text your toaster and tell it we say, “Hi”.
We’re referring to, of course, the not-so-imagined future, one where everything—from your car keys to your office desk’s pen-holder, to your sock drawer—is Internet-enabled. That’s the driving idea behind what’s been given the name the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s already here, and it shows no signs of losing steam.
The global smart home market, for example, which in 2014 marked revenues totaling $20.38 billion, is forecasted to top $60 billion by 2021. That’s a lot of money being spent on “smart” thermostats and cloud-based security cameras. But the in-home applications don’t stop there—already available are things like Internet-ready egg cartons, which alert consumers when their eggs have gone bad. Inevitably, images of The Jetsons-style bubble-homes may spring to mind, but too, we got used to our Roombas pretty quickly; always-on assistants like Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa have proliferated over 27 million households in the US alone.
These sorts of applications are what most of us who’ve heard of the IoT picture when we think about the future of connectivity. But for the greater portion of IoT’s lifespan, it hasn’t been the private sector leading the pack at all—it’s been industry.
The Industrial Internet of Things (creatively termed the IIoT, and sometimes called the Industrial Internet), takes this concept out of the home and places it…well, everywhere else.
The opportunities for implementation are vastly distributed and range from umbrella industries like manufacturing, aviation, mining, and alternative energies like wind power, to the more “humanized” industries like healthcare and education. The IIoT market is estimated to reach $120 billion globally by 2021, and we’ve already seen widespread integration as early as 2013 from major manufacturers like Michelin, General Electric, and Ford.
The aggregate data collected by these connected infrastructures means more efficiency, lowered costs, and greater speed and growth for the processes and companies which rely on these systems. Miniscule improvements in efficiency might not seem like a big deal, but GE estimates that just a 1% improvement in its global manufacturing base’s productivity saves the company $500 million annually.
With numbers like these floating around, the future might seem inevitable. Conservative projections place the number of IoT and IIoT-connected devices at 40 billion by 2020; more than 5x our current global population. That many IoT devices so dramatically eclipses every other type of connected device, it can almost be impossible to internalize.
All the convenience this interconnectivity brings with it, however, isn’t without its risks. Many have already proselytized the susceptibility of these systems, imagining privacy violations and even zero-day scenarios such as what might happen if an insurgent hacker group disabled an entire city’s IoT-enabled water maintenance infrastructure, rendering clean and potable water inaccessible to a large population of people. And while that might sound ripped from the pages of a hastily-written Tom Clancy novel, this and cautionary tales like it aren’t unfounded.
One thing, though, is certain. If you’re running a business on the net—and chances are, as this trend becomes tract, you’ll have to—then security is going to be your biggest asset and your starkest concern. That’s why a secure, direct, unshared line becomes so important: and fiber internet is the best foundation on the market for building that security.
With the Internet of Things, like with any new global innovation, there are going to be costs and benefits. But in our humble opinion, nothing beats the idea of proactive, realtime noise-dampening office floors or football helmets that detect injuries before players or coaches can (Go ‘Skers!).
So when your company or business decides to go for big data, you’ll be confidently ready to make the push for fiber. At the very least, if you’re an industrial manager, you can tell your foreman to rest easier knowing no one’s going to be able to forget to hit the lights on their way out. The Network will grab ‘em.
And no matter who you are, you can tell your toaster we like our crusts browned, but not burnt.