Thirty-four billion – that is the number of devices Business Insider predicts will be connected to the internet by 2020. And, shockingly, only 10 billion of those will be smartphones. The balance will be a combination of refrigerators, fitness trackers, thermostats and more.  

With this rapid influx of internet-connected devices, it is no wonder that the Internet of Things (IoT) has been the buzzword of the last few years both in technology groups and, increasingly, with consumers around the world. While the debate about how often you will use an internet-enabled dryer, the bigger focus is now on how IoT will impact daily lives.

The short answer is that it will impact people in almost every facet of life: People are tracking their activity with health monitors. Families are controlling power bills by installing smart thermostats that know when the house is empty. Sports people use the technology to improve their game. I was fascinated by small sensor device from Sony that can fit on my tennis racket and I can have the data that tells me how I played. There are reports of major companies including Google and Apple battling to release the first connected car that can drive itself.

But what about for businesses? How will the IoT change how we do business? And how will IT departments react to this newly intertwined world where devices that can exchange information outnumber human workers?

The changing face of business technology

In my opinion, the business world is on the verge of a major transition that will revolutionize the way we work on the same scale that the personal computer and the internet changed the way we work. And in many ways, those changes are already here and impacting businesses.

Take the personal transportation industry as a prime example. With the advent of Uber – which is possible due to smartphones, highly efficient GPS, rapid credit card processing and a generation of entrepreneurial drivers – taxi, limo and rental car services have been transformed. While not every industry will see this massive of a change, every industry will see transformation in the coming years due to technology.

To stay relevant, businesses will be forced to embrace technology more rapidly than ever before. In addition, it will be imperative that businesses think creatively about how to use technology to evolve their business – simply adapting out-of-the-box solutions may no longer be viable. Businesses will have to work with IT departments to find unique applications of technology that allow customers to have a better or easier experience.

For those who commit, they will have the opportunity to significantly change their own departments, companies and industry so that businesses take full advantage of the newly connected world.  

The impact on IT departments

There has long been a notion that IT departments simply select and implement technology that they feel is right for an organization. Even if this is not the way the selection process has historically operated, in the changing world, IT departments should use this time to evolve how they operate and interact with the rest of the company. This could include:

  • Focusing on platform services– Custom-designed services that fit an individual company will never be fully abandoned, however in this new world IT departments and providers will focus more on implementing the best platform for the company and to work with partner networks. Once IT teams find the most appropriate platform for their organization, they will customize specific options and settings to meet the company needs. And all of this will have to be based in the cloud, so IT teams can make updates, maintain services and release new options from anywhere.
  • Engaging co-workers outside of the IT department in the process– Technology decisions and implications will no longer be handled just by the back office staff. Instead, everyone in the company will feel the impact of technology and will need to buy into it, especially as more items are connected through the IoT. Front office team members will have to access to in-depth details about customers and products to meet customer expectations. With this change, front office staff will have more desire to be included in the decision making process.
  • Preparing for the next wave of connected items– The premise of IoT is that it can grow infinitely and can continue to change our lives. For businesses, this could not be truer. In coming years, more technologies will connect to the network and learn more about how people and businesses operate. With this, businesses can start to implement artificial intelligence so that jobs in business can be more efficient and automated.

As the Internet of Things grows, business initiatives and outcomes will also change but it is also a prime opportunity for companies to realign and update their technology to be as efficient as possible. Those companies that embrace the technology – and the individuals within the company that champion the technology – will evolve swiftly to meet customer needs and will end up being the ones that gain the most from the transformation and new technology options.