Thumbnail image for discussion-pointYou can't escape the buzz about the Internet of Things (IoT). From ubiquitous sensors and constant connectivity to wearable tech and appliances that seemingly think autonomously, the potential is limitless.

We're rapidly developing a digital nerve system as sophisticated and complex as anything in the human body.

Proponents boast that the IoT will shape our futures and transform the ways we work, live and play. But will it — and, if so, how? To find out, we turned to four industry experts, including two that rank on Appinions list of the IoT's top 10 movers and shakers. (Appinions is an influence marketing platform designed to help B2B businesses identify, manage and measure the people and ideas that impact companies and their products.)

It's easy to lie — or at least misrepresent — with statistics and predictions. But by any measure, the IoT is a massive economic engine. IDC claims a transformation is underway that will see the worldwide market for IoT solutions grow from last year's $1.9 trillion to $7.1 trillion in 2020. IDC defines the IoT as a network of networks of uniquely identifiable endpoints (or "things") that communicate without human interaction using IP connectivity, be it "locally" or globally.

What's interesting is how quickly the IoT has become a thing, as the chart below shows.

The Question

Will the IoT change life as we know it? 

The Answers

Charlie Bess, Chief Technologist, Hewlett-Packard

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HP's chief technologist ranks seventh on Appinions list of most influential IoT executives. Previously, Bess was the leader of HP’s global architecture capability, the Chief Technologist for numerous large internal teams and a member of HP’s services lab. He is an avid blogger and led HP’s global technical conference multiple times. Bess is a licensed professional engineer, certified as an Open Group distinguished architect leader, president of the International Society of Service Innovation Professionals (leading the Service Futures SIG) and a senior IEEE member. Tweet to Charlie Bess.

Without a doubt, the Internet of Things will change our lives. We’ll move from thinking about computers as devices to not thinking about computers in things at all.  This more environmental computing interaction should empower us by addressing our needs proactively and interactively. We’ll begin to collaborate with the environment around us, rather than just manipulate it. The cognitive computing capabilities will allow us to focus our attention on those elements that truly need our creativity and consideration, rather than be distracted by the mundane needs of the day (that will now be automated).

The reason we will accept this abundance of computing capabilities is because it will not beg for our attention, like most implementations today. Instead, it will be self-regulating and correcting in its effort to care for us and make our lives better. 

This will take significant effort on the part of engineers and innovators but should enable a richer life experience. We’re at the early stages of this more interactive and intelligent environment. We’re crawling — or, at most, toddling along — and the steep part of the learning curve is still ahead of us where a great deal of experimentation and understanding will be developed.

Steve Jennis, Senior Vice President, PrismTech

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Jennis, who ranks 10th on the Appinion list of influential IoT execs, is responsible for PrismTech's corporate development and marketing. The company supplies the software platforms, tools and services that are needed to build system solutions for the IoT, the industrial Internet and advanced wireless communications. It recently launched Vortex, an intelligent real time data sharing platform for the Industrial IoT. While at PrismTech, Jennis has established the company’s North American operations and successfully developed its worldwide sales and marketing functions. Before joining PrismTech, Jennis was the general manager of Texas Instrument's Computer Products Division. He also held international marketing and strategic planning positions with the organization. Tweet to Steve Jennis.

Did the Internet of people change life as you knew it? Do you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. today? Did you 10 years ago? Did you predict these changes? I think we all know the answers. Now think about adding "things" to those online interactions. A common misconception about the IoT is that it will somehow exclude people. But I can’t think of anything less true. People will still be in control. Things will communicate with each other and with analytical applications many times more often than we post to our Facebook friends or our Twitter followers today, but ultimately the information extracted from all that communication will be delivered to us to be acted upon.

At work we will feel the impact more quickly, as enterprise systems are extended to embrace embedded sensors, mobile devices and cloud services over the Internet. Sometimes called the Industrial IoT, business-critical applications will give us access to more event-driven information -- derived from analysis of event-driven data -- to help us optimize our work environment, whether that affects the revenue line (e.g. new products and services), the cost line (e.g. waste reduction and better allocation of resources) or our quality-of-life (e.g. less traffic congestion, lower pollution). In our private lives, it will take a bit longer to achieve a truly plug-and-play IoT (without corporate system integrators to build and maintain end-to-end the systems). The consumer IoT will quickly be served by single-vendor solutions (e.g. all-Apple, all-Google or all-Nike), but before we get to multi-vendor transparent connectivity, a large number of standardization, data model, API and system integration issues need to be resolved.

Yes, the IoT will change life as we know it. There will be growing pains but also great benefits. The only thing I can predict with certainty is that we have even less chance today of predicting the full impact of the IoT by 2024 than we had of predicting the impact of social media today back in 2004.

Dana Blouin, Ph.D candidate and IoT researcher 

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A CMSWire contributing writer, Blouin describes himself as a technologist and nerd. Four years ago, he was working as a network technician at a communications company in Rhode Island. Today he's working on a PhD in Thailand. He is conducting research at the Sirindhorn International Institute of Technology (SIIT) at Thammasat University on low power IPv6 wireless networks — small sensors that can communicate reliably with Internet enabled devices. Tweet to Dana Blouin.

When I look at the ways the Internet of Things has impacted life today, it is really just the tip of the iceberg. Even though we're starting to see a greater number of IP enabled devices hit the market and sensors are becoming both more advanced and smaller scale, their reach into our daily lives is in its infancy. Over the next five years, it’s clear we will see a massive surge in connected devices for the home and office as well as a massive boost in what we will consider wearable technology. It won’t so much be a smart watch or an activity monitor as much as it will be a sensor enabled shirt or shoes. Or our everyday eyeglasses will become smart devices. We won't need goofy add-ons like Google glass. As more of our everyday items become part of the Internet of Things, we will be able to derive more context from the world around us. That's when the fun begins.

When IoT technology gets to the point where the vast majority of devices surrounding us are connected in some way to capture data and improve our interactions with the things around us, our quality of life will be improved dramatically in a number of small ways. We will be able to get through our daily routine quicker and easier. We will be assisted by devices along the way that capture some data and analyze it to help us improve our routines and accomplish them more effectively, allowing us more time for the things that matter most to us. 

Jim Heppelmann, President and CEO, PTC

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PTC’s strategy and technology-enabled solutions are designed to meet the needs of manufacturing customers "in a smart, connected world." The Needham, Mass.-based company made news last week when it announced the $170 million acquisition of Foxboro, Mass.-based Axeda, a provider of an IoT platform,  Last December, PTC bought another machine-to-machine technology player, ThingWorx, for $130 million. Heppelmann said the two buys will accelerate PTC’s ability "to deliver best-in-class solutions across the entire Internet of Things technology stack." Before his appointment as CEO, Heppelmann was PTC’s president and chief operating officer, with responsibility for managing the operating business units of the company including R&D, marketing, sales, services and maintenance. Tweet to Jim Heppelmann.

Will the IoT change life as we know it? I would go one step further to say it already has.  Think about this. We already live in a smart, connected world fueled by the IoT with home automation systems, contact lenses that monitor blood sugar levels, lawn mowers that take care of the yard and the self-driving car. According to McKinsey Global Institute, the Internet of Things has the potential to create trillions of dollars of new economic value in the coming decade.  This alone indicates the IoT has arrived and changed the landscape.

The smart, connected products are here. How consumers interact with those products is changing. And the pace of that change is accelerating as more and more machines, sensors and products connect via the Internet to their makers, to their operators and to each other. What’s fundamentally different now is that massive volumes of data are flowing from these smart, connected products – to their user, to their maker, and to each other. 

For manufacturers, which historically have lost sight of their product once it leaves the factory, the implications are enormous.  The product is no longer just an output of the value chain, but rather an integral component and data itself has the potential to become a “factor of production” alongside land, labor and capital. How? Products have become tremendous sources of intelligence — about their condition, their environment, their performance — as they have been increasingly instrumented with sensors. What’s done with that data will drive the next big wave, and manufacturers need to capitalize on the massive amounts of data available from their smart, connected products to deliver the type of experience consumers are demanding.