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How big is the
Internet of Things
(IoT)?

Author: Shane Schick

The sensors used to connect smart devices may be small, but the extent to which they've proliferated raises an obvious question for business leaders: How big is the Internet of Things? Everything from wearable fitness trackers and speakers to thermostats and lighting systems have been brought online, thanks to sensors and related technologies.

The ability for electronic devices and even once-inanimate objects to now share data with their owners—or with each other—is the basic definition of the Internet of Things, or IoT. In some ways, though, we may still be in the early days of what else might become "smart" as technology continues to advance.

How big is the IoT?

Some of the most common potential use cases for the IoT to date are already progressing rapidly. This includes connected vehicles, where sensors can pave the way for autonomous or self-driving cars. Manufacturers are connecting machinery to the IoT to predict when parts might need to be repaired or replaced.

The concept of "smart energy," meanwhile, where utilities can better optimize the use of power and electricity, is also made possible by the IoT. And factories can boost productivity and improve employee safety by introducing IoT-enabled smart robotics.

Due to its widespread applications, it's difficult to give one precise answer to, "How big is the IoT?" Though some estimates suggest the number of connected devices could reach tens of billions in just a few years, the size of the IoT can also refer to its expansion into a platform of services.

The power and potential of IoT platform services

Rather than approach the IoT as a series of isolated projects that require plans to be developed from scratch, IoT platform services can help businesses accelerate adoption and improve the ability to manage and optimize data. Platform services could include access to networks that were built with IoT use cases in mind. Given that a big part of the value in IoT projects is the data they help an organization collect, platform services could also provide intelligent templates to analyze and act upon the data.

The right platform services provider could also assist with areas such as life cycle management, connecting smart devices to the cloud and realizing the potential of major network advancements such as 5G.

If more organizations are asking themselves, "How big is the IoT?" it’s probably because they recognize it offers a way to address several business challenges at once. More smart devices can make it easier to work from anywhere, to allocate resources with greater confidence and to transform customer experiences in real time. The answer to "How big is the Internet of Things?" will therefore depend on how quickly organizations capitalize on the opportunities ahead of them.

How big is the Internet of Things? The long-term outlook

The real question isn't simply, "How big is the Internet of Things today?" but what the future holds.

One near-certainty is that we'll continue to see more connected objects, particularly within industries that have already seen success. Retailers, for instance, could go beyond "smart shelves" to connecting individual products and manufacturers that want to add sensors to additional parts of their supply chains.

The growth of the IoT isn't limited to devices. Business leaders should watch as more platform services emerge to strengthen IoT security, analyze data and facilitate machine-to-machine (M2M) interactions with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).

We'll probably also see the IoT grow in terms of front-end business applications, such as dashboards, that can be used by businesses, customers and even citizens who live in smart cities.

How big is the IoT? Really big—but poised to get much, much bigger.

Learn more about how Verizon can help your business make the best use of technologies like AI and the IoT.

FAQs

How do IoT sensors work? +
  • Depending on the purpose, IoT sensors can be placed or embedded within an object to measure something, such as changes to its physical characteristics. This data can then be transmitted through a network to another machine or a human being using an application.

What are some of the most common smart devices in business today? +
Which industries are among the biggest IoT adopters? +
  • The IoT has touched almost every industry imaginable, but there are advanced deployments across healthcare, manufacturing, the automotive industry, agriculture and energy. Learn about some of the key benefits of IoT for business by industry.

What is an IoT platform? +
  • An IoT platform consists of a set of technologies and related services that allow an organization to simplify the complexity of connecting devices and managing data to improve business outcomes. Learn about Verizon’s ThingSpace IoT Management Platform.