How the Internet of Things Will Change Your World

Kyle is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

Imagine that it's 5 a.m. on a Tuesday morning in November, and your car has getting you to work at the top of its agenda today.

Your car knows from your driving activity that you're probably asleep and it doesn't want to wake you, but its concerned about the low level of gas you've left in it, and how this might set you both back in a few hours, as you will have to make a pit stop at the gas station if you ever plan to get all the way across town to work.

Before causing any unnecessary fuss, your car decides to have a little chat with the digital planner on your iPhone to see if you have something else planned for Tuesday. The answer is no, which your iPhone then relays to your car.

After double-checking your route to work for any construction delays or accidents which might effect the time line, your car shoots off a message to your alarm clock and the reading light by your bedside to wake you up 5 minutes early in order to compensate for the stop. Your alarm clock agrees, and silently informs your bathroom shower faucet, toothbrush, Mr. Coffee machine and toaster of the change in plan.

All of this happens about 3 times faster than you can blink your eye.

Welcome to the Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things was born between 2008-9, in the depths of the Great Recession. That was the year that devices began to outnumber people on the internet. If it has an on-off button or switch, it should be computing; and if its computing, it should be connected to the internet.

According to a study conducted by Forrester Research:

  • There is a positive perception of the term Internet of Things, and 85% of respondents agree with the provided definition of IoT.

  • Momentum appears strong, as 15% of surveyed organizations across the globe already have an Internet of Things solution in place, 53% plan to implement one within the next 24 months, and another 14% in the next two to five years.

  • In looking at adoption by industry, 21% of transportation and logistics respondents noted they already have Internet of Things solutions in place. Only 3% of healthcare organizations have them in place.

  • Around the globe, the majority of IT decision-makers are turning to Internet of Things solutions to provide more visibility in the supply chain and improve customer interactions.

The top five companies at the forefront of the Internet of Things revolution are:

Intel (NASDAQ: INTC): The microprocessor giant's new Rosepoint technology allows WiFi radios to be shrunk to sub-microscopic levels, allowing everything from digital OLED newspapers to your toothbrush to send and receive data. Rosepoint technology will be the first link in the chain between everything around you and the internet.

IBM (NYSE: IBM): Big Blue's “A Smarter Planet” initiative aims to connect all the different “smarter” technologies – power grids, energy consumption, traffic management, data centers, communications, rail transportation and healthcare – within a single, open-source system.

Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO): Dave Evans, chief technologist for Cisco's Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), predicts that 24 billion “things” will be online and talking to each other by 2020. More information will require more routers and switches to channel it. Cisco's new ASR 5050 “mobile packet core” technology is designed to take the irritation out of WiFi by upping the network's IQ. For example, the ASR 5050 allows content to play faster by setting advertising content at the lowest priority for the server. Dynamic adjustments are made for peak download hours of the day. Users can also give priority to whatever they want, whether its messages, web surfing, or video playback.

Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC): If IBM is about the grand scheme of things, Telecom leader Ericsson's focus is all the little pieces. The Internet of Things that currently exists is incredibly fragmented. Ericsson is positioning itself to be the company that ties it all together in a single consumer ecosystem, by providing turn-key enterprise solutions for business, as well as a variety of “frictionless” control hardware for the consumer. Ericsson is currently working on technologies that extend beyond 4G LTE, such as Cognitive Radio, Pervasive Networking and the Semantic Sensor Web.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT): When it comes to the Internet of Things, Microsoft is fixated on business, business, business. All of those sensors will need a single nerve center at the Enterprise level to plug into as well as a common user interface. Sales data, consumer behavior, machine diagnostics and signal strength will be monitored and modeled in near real time. Microsoft's StreamInsight technology is designed to analyze hundreds of millions of data points per second without writing anything to disk in order to save time.


No one knows exactly how the Internet of Things will ultimately look. The only certainty is that few (if any) people would believe it if you told them, because points of reference simply don't exist yet.

The lack of a frame of reference is why no one in 1994 could imagine the existence of an iPhone. Today, no one would find it impossible, or even improbable, that a intelligent sensor connected to the Internet could track an elderly man's heart function and emergency personnel the moment his heartbeat becomes dangerously irregular, because current technology provides a frame of reference for that kind of innovation. If, on the other hand, you were to ask people to imagine a highway that could unravel itself in one place and regenerate itself in another in response to traffic jams, the response would be quite different.

But regardless of how intelligent and interconnected the world around us becomes, one thing is clear: The companies that build tomorrow are the companies that will still exist tomorrow. Intel, IBM, Cisco, Ericsson and Microsoft are determined to be a integral part of that future. 

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