Is the Internet of Things Meeting Its Full Potential?

With more devices than ever connected to the IoT, tech experts are hopeful we will soon be able to harness the data they collect and use it for better decision-making for businesses and government.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- For everything they can do – alert to dirty diapers, learn your thermostat preferences, etc. – devices within the Internet of Things (IoT) also pose a fairly massive challenge for the technology industry. 
It’s not just that there is a daunting amount of data being generated through the multitude of connected devices, or the potential security risks some have pointed to; the challenge is more linked with the fact that the industry is not focused enough on turning the data into a decision driver.

Anders Brown, managing director of the IoT program with Luxoft, spoke to attendees of the 17th Annual Cloud Expo and said that while the Internet of Things may be the latest trend in the “hype cycle,” it presents challenges that those working in the space need to address.

As the ever-expanding network of connected devices continues to grow, Brown contends our lack of ability to translate the voluminous amounts of data into “decisions” is nothing short of a problem that could ultimately render IoT to a passing fad.  

“We’re also at a critical time as a group. And I mean all of us," Brown said. "Everybody in this room is in this industry. Like all good technology trends before us, we have to find a time and a place where we start translating our language from technology to business value."

While business struggles with the same challenges it has always had – how to decrease costs while increasing revenues and customer satisfaction – the IoT remains a largely untapped resource.

Brown advocates for an industrywide push to tackle the issue.

“I feel like it’s a great time to challenge all of us to think this way, for all of us to rotate our conversation and start talking about moving from things to decisions; moving from sensors and data to insight,” he said. “What I’m convinced of is that if we can get there together, it will be a very, very bright future for all of us in this room.”

But Brown said some niche industries are already leveraging the data collected by the “things.” He points to tractor maker John Deere and the company's revolutionary harvesting that combines that stream information to the driver for more efficient harvests.

The combination of real-time data and “known” industry data sets allow the drivers to address a number of agriculture-specific issues and increase the overall efficiency.

Brown’s colleague Brandon Schulz demonstrated the business potential of the IoT in a retail setting with sensors hidden under audience members’ chairs. When Schulz approached the sensors, his cell phone was immediately notified of “deals” based on the area of the “store” he was pretending to shop at.

From his perspective, while the available technology isn’t completely equivalent to its human counterpart, it does show promise in that it can interact with shoppers on a basic level that could ultimately translate the customer’s desire for an item into a very real sale.

Brown said certain industries have been quicker to adapt the IoT to their specific needs, but said there is still work to be done before business can rely on it as a decision-making tool. He referenced Tesla’s work on the driverless vehicle and even the use of data to streamline the dairy farming industry through data-driven decision-making. 

"My point in all cases," he said, "is that the headline-grabbing news has to become around creating value, not just about the thing."

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at