There's one thing clear about the Internet of Things — and that is that it's very unclear what it will ultimately look like.

We know it will be something that connects billions of devices. But what devices? How will they be connected? And what will be the point in connecting them be?

What is also becoming clear is that one of the major forces that will shape the IoT is the way IT developers and vendors perceive it and how they plan to use it in the future. Microsoft recently added to its already substantial contribution on the issue by pointing to different reasons why businesses need an IoT strategy.

Stating the Obvious

It seems unnecessary to stress the importance of developing an IoT strategy, but sometimes these things just need to be said.

Think about cloud computing. It didn’t seem necessary to develop business strategies for that, but then we saw recently that small-to-medium sized companies (SMBs) are not only avoiding it, but 10 percent of them don’t even know what it is.

Big data and big data analytics are the same. Hype aside, it seems many enterprises are still not sure what big data is, how they use it or what it's good for.

In fact, it’s not just emerging technologies that are causing problems. It’s also what are now considered traditional technologies, like enterprise content management and document management.

Every year, in its State of the Industry report on the ECM market, AIIM consistently finds evidence to suggest that many organizations are having the same difficulty taming their information that they would a wild beast.

IoT In The Future

So recent attempts by vendors to work out strategies or even define the IoT should not be dismissed as mere marketing. Rather, they are genuine attempts to define the IoT.

Only this month, for example, Pew Research published a report summarizing what some of the leading web luminaries think about the IoT. The only thing they really agreed on was that there could be no agreement.

The result is that, for practical purposes, it is going to be up to the IT companies that end up building the IoT to define and shape it.

About a year ago, Sanjay Poonen, head of the mobile division at SAP, noted that the entire concept can be summarized as follows:

… M2M technology is primarily being used to collect vast amounts of machine and people-based data. The ‘Internet of Things’ concept goes one step further by not only integrating machines, people, ERP and CRM systems, and other information sources like social media, but also analyzing and making use of all the data. Soon, people will interact with devices that in turn interact with data to deliver personalized products and services directly to the consumer in real time…”

There are many other similar definitions from different people, but the basic principal is always the same — the IoT will connect millions, if not billions of devices.

At what point we can call the IoT a reality is difficult to say. Generally speaking, it will be up and running by 2020 and will consist of anything between 50 billion devices, according to SAP, or a monster that will be worth in the region of $20 trillion sometime in the undefined, hazy future, according to Cisco.

Microsoft and IoT

This has lead Microsoft’s Susan Hauser, corporate vice president at the Enterprise and Partner Group, draw up a list of things that businesses should be doing now while they are still on top of the situation.
For Microsoft, the IoT is going to be a slightly less impressive than the IoT envisaged by Cisco, but it will be impressive all the same.

Citing research from McKinsey Global Institute, Microsoft estimated that the IoT has the potential to create an economic impact of between $2.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion annually by 2025.

It points out that the roots of the IoT are already growing in the shape of the devices, sensors, cloud infrastructure and data and business intelligence tools organizations are already using. It suggests the IoT is not a single, growing entity but rather, something that corporate leaders can better understand by focusing on the areas that matter to them most and building from there.