IoT connected devices will reach 26 billion by 2020

30th April 2015
IoT connected devices will reach 26 billion by 2020

The Internet of Things (IoT) looks set to completely revolutionise how we live and work and tech boffins are understandably very excited about its potential. But exactly how widespread is the technology likely to be in the next few years? 

Well, Gartner has estimated that by 2020, there will be 26 billion internet-connected physical devices around the world. This compares with just 0.9 billion in 2010 – a staggering increase in anyone's book.

It means more and more of us will be using intelligent devices that communicate with each other and respond to the environment around them in a clever and intuitive way. 

The supply chain industry looks set to be one of the main beneficiaries of growing IoT penetration, as it could fundamentally change how it operates. And this would in turn be great news for the customers who rely on logistics providers.

Michael Burkett, managing vice-president at Gartner, therefore believes supply chain strategists should start looking at the potential of IoT technology sooner rather than later.

"Some IoT devices are more mature, such as commercial telematics now used in trucking fleets to improve logistics efficiency," he commented.

"Some, such as smart fabrics that use sensors within clothing and industrial fabrics to monitor human health or manufacturing processes, are just emerging."

Gartner is confident that with these innovations moving firmly into the mainstream, modern supply chains will be able to deliver a "more differentiated service to customers more efficiently".

This is great news for everyone. The logistics sector will be able to operate in a far more streamlined and targeted way, so it sees far fewer resources going to waste. And for those of us who depend upon transport providers to deliver goods to our front door on a regular basis, we can expect a more responsive service and one that is better tailored to our individual needs.

Many logistics providers are already stepping up their investment in digital marketing and gathering detailed data about their customers, so they can better understand their tastes, preferences and circumstances and respond accordingly.

With the IoT becoming part of the equation too and devices formulating an intelligent response to the data fed into them, customer service could be about to be revolutionised.

Naturally though, as this becomes the norm our expectations are going to grow. We will come to expect as standard what might have been dismissed as a lofty ideal just a few years ago.

Look at how annoyed we get these days when we can't get a speedy internet connection on our smartphones when we're out and about. It would have been unthinkable not long ago that we would demand such fast connectivity when we're on the bus, train, shopping centre etc. But it's moved so firmly into the mainstream that we now demand it as standard. 

The message to take away is therefore that when the public embraces a new innovation and we decide we like it, we end up expecting it all the time!

This means that companies that invest in IoT-ready technology to improve their service should brace themselves for the fact that we're about to get much more demanding.

"Supply chain leaders must design their processes to operate in this digital business world," Mr Burkett commented.

"This includes fulfilling the new expectations of customers and the volatile demands that digital marketing will create."

Mr Burkett added that supply chains in the future will meet these expectations by bringing business, people and things together in a "digital value network", as well as by incorporating systems such as IoT and smart machines "into this design strategy".

The IoT, it seems, will become a key facet of many aspects of our lives, from how we run our home and cook our meals to how we purchase goods and services and get items delivered to our location of choice.

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