Firstly, forget the internet connected fridge, which everyone focuses on when you talk about IoE. In the UK, we see five major sectors that will feel the effects first, and most strongly: healthcare, retail, manufacturing, energy and transport. That said, every industry will benefit from the IoE. As more and more of the 99 per cent of physical objects that aren’t yet connected to the internet eventually do come online, opportunities will arise across all these sectors and it’s the forward-thinking businesses that stand to gain.
Amid dwindling budgets, demands on the NHS are growing. The IoE will enable healthcare organisations to deliver more effective care, but also provides an opportunity for patients to take greater control of their own wellbeing. uMotif, winner of last year’s Cisco BIG Awards, is doing exactly that. A set of simple, intuitive self-diagnostic apps allow people to measure and monitor their health, then share results with their clinician.
After a torrid few years, the pace of high street retail failures and closures is slowing. With the IoE, brick and mortar retailers can leverage their major advantage over the e-tailer giants: physical premises. Combining insights from the online and physical realms gives businesses an unparalleled view of their customers, which can be used to encourage spend, increase dwell time and generally provide a better experience.
INTU Properties, which owns 16 shopping centres across the UK, collates WiFi data to provide real-time insights on customer footfall and volume, with the agreement, to provide insights into rental contract negotiations, advertising sales and even cleaning scheduling.
Manufacturing is slowly being reshored back to the UK. An AlixPartners report estimates that by as early as 2015 it will cost the same to manufacture a product in the US as in China. Powerful industrial sensors are getting faster, smaller and cheaper, which can give much-needed visibility into the supply chain and manufacturing process.
Not only that, but we’re at the cusp of a revolution in terms of the process itself. A case in point would be WinSun, the Chinese construction company that recently 3D printed ten houses in one day using waste concrete and building materials. Gartner estimates it will be soon be a multi-billion dollar industry; the iron is hot and it’s time for innovative manufacturers to strike.
Energy and transport are two areas where both public and private sector stands to gain, but as consumers we will all feel the benefits. The average British citizen wastes £86 a year through simple inefficiencies like leaving the TV on standby; businesses waste an order of magnitude more on similarly avoidable things. The roll-out of smart grids will introduce an element of control that has been lacking. Imagine telling your tumble-dryer only to switch on when electricity is cheap, or street lighting that varies in brightness depending on how many people are in a particular area. The facilities are there already, it’s just a matter of making the connections.
According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, “seven years ago, more than 50 per cent of the power distributed by North Delhi Power Ltd wasn’t paid for by customers, with a key challenge for power companies being the reduction of theft by India’s poor.” This led to a higher cost of delivering utility services to poorer neighbourhoods because of infrastructure inefficiencies.
IoE, because of its ubiquitous sensors and connected systems, will provide organisations in both the public and private sector, with more information and control in order to identify and fix these problems. It will allow utilities to operate more profitably, giving them extra incentive to improve infrastructures in poorer neighbourhoods.
More efficiency will also allow for lower prices, which, in turn, could encourage those taking services for free to become paying customers. This is just the beginning; as we move forward there is no one path to follow. No one truly knows what to expect or the extent of the positive potential that IoE really has, so the playing field between large organisations and small businesses is truly level. Companies will only win through creative thinking and collaboration – I couldn’t be more excited to see what the future holds.
Ian Foddering is CTO of Cisco UK&I.
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