In Lyle Hauser's estimation, the Internet of Things is "absolutely still in its infancy."
It's growing up fast, though.
Just as interconnected devices have become a regular part of our daily lives — who among us can resist asking Siri or Alexa something? — these gadgets have begun to invade the workplace. And there is no end in sight.
"You'll see over the next few years, just like (Digital Ledger Technology), that it is going to explode — and in conjunction with certain DLT-related projects," said Hauser, CEO of the Vantage Group, a South Florida-based private equity firm and specialized business consultancy.
Since founding the Vantage Group in 1998, Hauser has followed an investment strategy geared toward offering capital and capital formation advice to companies in the early stages of their growth — especially those businesses focused on making a deep, positive impact on the world.
His investments have been wide-ranging over the course of his career, but currently he is focused not only only DLT and the IoT, but Cannabis.
"At the end of the day we're always looking to get involved with various opportunities that are going to be disruptive in the fields that they're in," he said.
He believes that DLT "will probably wind up being bigger than the Internet." And the IoT will not be far behind.
Consider, once again, those omnipresent smart speakers. Deloitte Global predicts that some $7 billion worth of these devices will be sold in 2019, a 63 percent growth rate that would continue to make them the most popular IoT-related gadget on the market. Much of this growth will be in places other than the U.S. — particularly China — as the device was geared toward English-speaking countries through the end of 2017.
Smart speakers had long ago made inroads in the business world. Alexa for Business is capable of performing no fewer than 10,000 repetitive tasks — everything from arranging meetings to taking messages and the like.
In addition, we see such IoT-related devices as robots capable of arranging videoconferences, smart thermostats and smart lights that can improve the office environment and wearables that track employees' health (notably their stress levels). Gartner, a global research and advisory company, estimated that businesses accounted for over four billion of the seven billion interconnected gadgets in use worldwide in 2018, and can be expected to employ over seven billion by 2020. By then, Gartner projects that nearly 13 billion devices will be in circulation, between the enterprise and consumer realms. That number is expected to climb to as many as 21.5 billion by 2025.
It should come as no surprise, then, that in 2017 Forbes reported that nearly 3,000 U.S. companies were building the IoT — companies that at the time employed some 342,000 workers, had raised some $125 billion and created some $613 billion in value. Of those companies, 95 were billion-dollar startups.
Of the many industries the IoT has touched, financial services, healthcare and manufacturing head the list. This breakdown:
- Financial Services: The use cases in this space are headed by security and the transformation of cellphones into endpoints, with customer service, automation and transparency (three things that often overlap) also in the mix.
- Healthcare: There is a shortage of American healthcare workers, and it is expected to become more acute as Baby Boomers continue to age. Some 2.3 million more healthcare workers will be needed by 2025, and in the meantime organizations have introduced the IoT in ways that will ease the burden on existing staff.
- Manufacturing: Particularly notable is the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID), which increases supply-chain efficiency: Among other things, perishable items can be assured a longer shelf life.
- Energy: This was one of the first industries to adopt IoT, and it continues to use sensors to monitor and maintain solar panels.
- Agriculture: By 2050 the world's population will be such that farmers will need to produce 70 percent more food than they did in 2006, and they too have turned to the IoT to improve their operations. One example: Using drones to monitor land use.
- Transportation: From the burgeoning world of the smart car to systems that track traffic data, there are multiple use cases for the IoT. Shipping companies have also entered the fray, monitoring not only their vehicles on land but those on rails and in the air.
- Retail: Brick-and-mortar outlets are fast becoming obsolete, as online shopping becomes all the rage. But the IoT can help slow this trend by slicing labor costs, improving the customer experience and cutting down on the mistakes made in inventory.
It is expected that enterprise IoT will continue to move in directions we can only begin to discern — that it will continue to grow out of its infancy.
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