Defining the Internet of Things
We define the Internet of Things as sensors and actuators connected by networks to computing systems. These systems can monitor or manage the health and actions of connected objects and machines. Connected sensors can also monitor the natural world, people, and animals.
For the purposes of this research, we exclude systems in which all of the sensors’ primary purpose is to receive intentional human input, such as smartphone apps where data input comes primarily through a touchscreen, or other networked computer software where the sensors consist of the standard keyboard and mouse.
Determining the settings where the Internet of Things will create impact
n reviewing nearly 300 IoT applications, we discovered that using only a conventional approach to categorizing the potential impact by vertical industry markets—such as automotive or consumer electronics—made it more difficult to analyze all the ways in which value could be created. If we look at how IoT technology is creating value from the perspective of the automaker, for instance, we would see how it improves manufacturing efficiencies and reduces costs. However, by viewing IoT applications through the lens of settings, we capture a broader set of effects, particularly those that require the interaction of IoT systems and often produce the greatest impact.
Through our work studying individual use cases and estimating their potential economic impact, we have developed insights into how the Internet of Things is likely to evolve. These findings include perspectives on how the potential benefits of IoT technologies are likely to be distributed among advanced and developing economies, how much IoT value is likely to be created in business-to-business vs. consumer markets, and which players in the value chain will capture the most value from IoT applications. We find that when IoT systems communicate with each other, their value is multiplied, which makes interoperability essential for maximizing benefits. Our research also generated findings about how the industry that supplies IoT technology is likely to evolve
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Estimated potential impact of IoT applications in 2025
We set out to measure the impact of the Internet of Things using a bottom-up approach. Our goal was to gauge impact from the perspective of the entire value chain (businesses, consumers, suppliers, and governments). We have looked at a wide range of application types, including operations, sales enablement, product development, and safety and security—viewing applications through the perspective of the physical settings where they are used.
Enablers and barriers
For the Internet of Things to deliver its maximum economic impact, certain conditions would need to be in place and several obstacles would need to be overcome. Some of these issues are technical. Some are structural and behavioral—consumers, for example, need to trust IoT-based systems, and companies need to embrace the data-driven approaches to decision-making that IoT enables. In addition, regulatory issues need to be resolved, such as determining how autonomous vehicles can be introduced to public roadways and how they will be regulated and insured.
Implications for stakeholders
In addition to its potential for enormous economic impact, the Internet of Things will affect a range of organizations and individuals. There are important implications for all stakeholders—consumers, IoT user companies, technology suppliers, policymakers, and employees. In particular, the rise of IoT has implications for the technology industry, creating new opportunities and risks for incumbents and new opportunities for rising players.
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The digitization of machines, vehicles, and other elements of the physical world is a powerful idea. Even at this early stage, the Internet of Things is starting to have a real impact. The Internet of Things is changing how goods are made and distributed, how products are serviced and refined, and how doctors and patients manage health and wellness. By examining the proliferating uses of the Internet of Things in specific settings, we have been able to estimate the magnitude of potential economic impact from IoT applications over the next ten years. Capturing that potential will require innovation in IoT technologies and business models and investment in new capabilities and talent. With policy actions to encourage interoperability, ensure security, and protect privacy and property rights, the Internet of Things can begin to reach its full potential.