The Internet of Things: It's Big and It's Here to StayThe Internet of Things isn't just a buzzword -- it’s a thing and it’s here to stay. So what exactly is the Internet of Things and why should you care?

Most people still don't have a firm grasp on this concept or a clear idea of how it will affect not only their business, but their everyday life. However, I believe that five years from now, the phrase “The Internet of Things” will be as common as the words “digital” or “social media.”

The Internet of Things Is Coming Sooner Than You Think

Financial Times does a good job explaining what the Internet of Things is, comparing it to everyday processes that we are familiar with:

Just as the ordinary internet connects people over fixed or mobile, telecoms networks including satellite, GSM and WiFi, the internet of things connects devices to one another thanks to machine-to-machine ‘modules’ that have a sensor and communications electronics,” writes the Financial Times. “The sensors can detect things such as temperature, pressure or movement and a single module can perform multiple functions, from monitoring throttle notch settings on freight trains for fuel efficiency, to slowing or stopping a train if there is an obstruction on the line."

I’m not the only person who believes the Internet of Things will catch on quickly. With numerous vendors and analysts, including McKinsey and Gartner, touting a bright future for the Internet of Things, it would be foolish not to give it some serious consideration.

By 2020, 50billion [devices] will be connected to the Internet in the developed world, according to Netherlands-based NXP …. Within five years, most homes will have 200 devices linked to the Internet from light bulbs to washing machines, NXP says.”

Now, if that doesn't paint a picture of the Internet of Things, I’m not sure what does.

Within 11 years, McKinsey estimates the potential economic impact of the Internet of Things as $5 to $7 trillion -- per year. And in its September 2011 report, The Internet of Things is Coming, Gartner recommended that companies develop an outline strategy for the Internet of Things. This plan includes working with the enterprise executive team to build an understanding and an appetite for action. It also recommends companies launch at least three pilot projects or services to explore and demonstrate these ideas in the context of their enterprise. While 2025 seems a long way off, trust me, it’s not.

The time for organizations to start planning for the Internet of Things is now.

The concept behind the Internet of Things is so compelling because it confirms the notion that all devices, not just your iPhone or PC, will have the ability to collect, synthesize and analyze data about themselves to help make more informed decisions. When will your washing machine break and require maintenance? Which light bulbs in your home will burn out first? What parts of your car are going to need maintenance soon? The Internet of Things could answer these questions.