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10 ways to make the Internet of Things pay off

There's been a lot of talk lately about the Internet of Things, but what practical benefits does it offer your business? Here are some technologies worth a look.

Now that more Machine-to-Machine (M2M) interfaces are facilitating Internet communications with inanimate devices, it's time to start strategizing about how your business can take advantage of it. M2M also adds capabilities to a growing number of Web "sensing" technologies. Capitalizing on Internet of Things (Iot) communications will improve the yields of Big Data probes — but not if you aren't focused on how they can add value. Here are 10 IoT technologies and best practices that enterprises should be tracking and/or adopting.

1: POS (point of sales) systems

A lot more comes through these systems than mere transactions for goods and services. Enterprises can also study associated Big Data that can be gleaned from these transactions, such as where sales took place and which products were sold. Analyzing this input can help with the design of correct product mixes that are targeted to the buying patterns at particular locations.

2: Mechanical IoT readings

If your company uses mechanical devices to measure consumer consumption (e.g., utility companies), you can collect data from these devices over the Internet. Your customer relationship management can go a long way if you start monitoring usage and then presenting online reports and suggestions for optimizing usage that can save customers money. Many electrical and gas utilities have already begun doing this.

3: Web user intelligence

Third-party Web data aggregators use IoT automation to help you better understand your customers by monitoring their activities on your Web site and in social media channels like Facebook. By monitoring individual customers' online activities across the Web, e-tailers are now getting a better sense of who their top customers are, what goods they prefer, and whether they influence others to buy.

4: Remote IT fixes

Secure IoT tunneling over Internet to remote devices allows IT to remotely fix many PC and mobile device problems for end users, thereby saving the time and expense of travel to remote sites.

5: Surveillance

M2M hookups over Internet enable security alarm and camera integration with central IT systems. They can immediately notify IT or facilities management whenever there is a potential security breach or a machine failure problem.

6: Robotics

IoT now enables high-speed, high-quality Internet to connect experts with distant situations in the field. The technology is being used in medicine, where a surgeon in Toronto can perform a procedure on an individual in the Arctic by directing a robot at the remote location (via Internet) to perform the operation.

7: Carbon mapping

Researchers in Arizona are using street-level sensors connected over the Internet to map carbon emissions in cities — a capability that could identify the greatest sources of carbon emissions and help combat global warming. The technology could be used by government agencies to monitor for carbon emissions compliance or by enterprises themselves in their environmental sustainability initiatives.

8: Transportation effectiveness

The transportation industry is wiring delivery trucks with sensors that monitor driving distances and times, track truck locations, and even assess driving habits. Activity is reported over the Internet and then collected into reports that are used to evaluate driver performance and the effectiveness of routes. The same technology is used to redirect trucks to new delivery routes if there is a coverage problem.

9: Network traffic routing

Network router failures can be auto-detected for failover to keep the network up and running. Network traffic can also be load-leveled and auto-routed to the best Internet channel to facilitate traffic flow.

10: GPSes (global positioning systems) and lost mobile devices

Thirty million cell phones were lost or stolen in 2011 alone. Being able to auto-detect a missing device and to totally shut it down protects information assets and gives IT security managers welcome headache relief.

More resources

For a comprehensive look at the issues and technologies surrounding the Internet of Things and the emerging Machine-to-Machine (M2M) ecosystem, check out ZDNet's latest feature page, Tapping M2M: The Internet of Things.

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About

Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President o...

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