What is it, what does it mean for the UAE, and how could your business take advantage?

Switch onto the Internet of Things
While the term ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) has been around for a while, its potential remains a mystery to many – especially those outside the IT and digital sectors.

At heart, the IoT is a network of physical objects or ‘things’ all embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity so they can exchange data with each other. This allows objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across an existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration between the physical world and computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit.

The most commonly used example is of a smart building and smart city. Smart buildings enable people to manage their energy bills better, by controlling things like air conditioning both remotely and intelligently – for example the system adjusts according to weather data, or when switches itself on when you are en route to the property in your car. A smart city, meanwhile, uses real time traffic data to control transport systems and so on.

These ideas aren’t just the preserve of Hollywood movies. For example Dubai Civil Defence plans to leverage IoT technology to deliver the National Life Safety Dashboard. This is a real-time, data analytics system that will allow DCD officials, government stakeholders, building owners and occupants to view the health and operational safety status of every building for Dubai. And DCD isn’t alone. IoT technology is viewed as key to Dubai’s smart-city vision, launched last year by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and intended to transform the city into the world’s smartest metropolis by 2017.

So where does this leave the average SME?

Firstly, it’s important to realise that the network powering the IoT is an opportunity to measure, collect and analyse an ever-increasing variety of behavioural statistics, trends and actions. These can help SMEs to better target their marketing and control their operations, for example enabling you to manage and reduce overheads across a wide range of operational, product and service related functions.

As an illustration, imagine sensors telling you exactly where, when and how your product is used: what might that mean for your design and marketing? Could you even create niche products using networked sensors? Or think of a manufacturing process that feeds back information on component wear and tear, and helps cut your maintenance and running costs.

But while the possibilities of IoT may be real, the pitfalls are too. Companies need systems that can cope with the sheer quantity of data produced by IoT devices, which may be a logistical and expenditure challenge for many SMEs. Security is also an issue: some experts believe connected devices will be the weak link in any IT system’s cyber security.

 

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