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You've likely heard the phrase Internet of Things, sometimes referred to as the IoT, being used quite a bit at this point. But you might still be asking yourself questions like, "What is the Internet of Things? How does it work? Does it apply to me and my customers?" We'll explain what IoT is and what applications could likely be related to your business and your customers.
What is the Internet of Things?
In a nutshell, the IoT is the rapidly growing system of devices (other than products like computers and smartphones) that have the ability to connect to the internet and other connected devices. Currently, that most commonly includes certain appliances, cars, light bulbs and home alarm systems. Some can be obvious, like smart TVs that can offer streaming viewing services, self-driving cars or smart thermostats that can be controlled by an app on a smartphone, but others might be less common, such as a plumbing leak detector that can be monitored through an app or computer or medical devices like a heart monitor that can collect data about someone's health and provide that to a health provider remotely.
How does it work?
With the rapid development of smaller and more affordable computer chips combined with the proliferation and increased availability of wireless networks, it's possible to create almost anything that has internet connectivity and turn it into a connected device. Connecting all those different objects while adding sensors to them allows them to have a form of digital intelligence they otherwise would not be capable of — like a light bulb being able to brighten or dim itself automatically based on the outdoor lighting conditions or a car being able to drive itself to a specific destination.
How does this apply to you and your customers?
We are all becoming increasingly dependent on products and things that are connected to the internet — and therefore part of the IoT. The connected smart products market has grown rapidly and will continue to do so. Customers are more interested in smart devices and creating smart homes than ever before, and even those who aren't specifically looking to establish a more complete smart home find many smart products enticing, or even necessary, on their own. So, if you don't already offer and install these types of items for your customers, it's certainly time to look into adding a good selection of them to your product and service offerings.
What types of IoT products can I offer?
The list of consumer products that are able to connect to the internet, have wireless connectivity and have become a part of the Internet of Things has grown immensely in recent years, and this trend is sure to continue in the future. Products in almost every category can be connected and considered "smart" or an IoT device. Those include:
Video surveillance – Within this category, some of the most common and immediately obvious products include IP cameras, network video recorders, and network attached storage systems. Being connected to a network allows for these devices to work together so that users can view video and control certain aspects of the system remotely from a smartphone, tablet or PC.
Access control – Connected products in access control include control panels, electronic locks, biometric readers and more. When connected to each other and a network, these devices work in tandem to allow entry to the right individuals into a secured area or building. Some of these devices may also identify people by facial recognition or fingerprint identification.
Alarms and sensors – Alarm keypads and sensors can be connected wirelessly on the same Wi-Fi network to work together in monitoring whether doors are open or closed, if a window's glass has been broken and more.
Life safety devices – Personal emergency response devices can connect wirelessly to security systems, allowing users to send an emergency notification to the system.
As you can imagine, the list of products, objects and devices that connect to the IoT is vast, and it's only going to continue to grow. As average consumers, we will all continue to get used to having more connected products in our lives. Connected products that were initially considered to be luxuries will eventually be considered necessities. This, of course, also means that the list of products and smart objects you'll have to offer to your customers will grow too, which is ultimately a great thing for you and your business.