The Internet of Things refers to the enormous network of devices and physical objects (“things”) that can connect to the Internet, recognize other devices and objects and communicate with them.

IoT devices have sensors that collect and transmit staggering amounts of data every second. A few examples include:

  • Vehicles equipped with sensors to track driving patterns, speed, distance and routes
  • Manufacturing machines where sensors monitor efficiency, safety and quality
  • Transportation tracking and monitoring systems on airplanes and locomotives
  • Smart meters, thermostats and security systems in homes and workplaces
  • Wind-turbines, solar panels and other components of “smart” grids, that monitor and react to usage patterns
  • Wearable technology, like fitness trackers, pacemakers or “smart” clothing
  • GPS devices and other systems that provide geographical, topographical and climatological data

With so many of these “things,” it is no wonder Gartner estimates 26 billion devices will be part of the IoT by 2020.

As more devices are fitted with sensors, more data is generated. And all this data from the IoT is already showing how it can transform both business and society. It helps us understand how the digital, physical and human components of highly complex systems relate and depend on each other.

But unless organizations can harness this data and do something smart with it, so-called smart “things” are just “things.” Without the scale to capture, manage, and see the data in context, sensor data reveals only a small fraction of its value. It’s basically useless and can’t be used for strategic decisions.