Sensor-filled wristbands feeding personal tracking and health data up to the cloud. Smartphone-connected toothbrushes. Bluetooth-enabled scales. Lighting systems controlled with apps on tablets. Garbage containers that relay messages to city planners who can optimize trash collection services. Cars that talk to other cars and sense ways to avoid accidents.
The face of mobile devices and machine-to-machine connectivity is changing the Internet of Things (IoT), and IoT is winning a lot of attention from the tech sector and adoration from Wall Street, investors, and venture capitalists.
In fact, the market is growing hand over fist. Global machine-to-machine (M2M) connections are expected to hit a quarter of a billion this year, according to a recent report by the GSMA. In 2013 that number reached 195 million M2M, showing a growth curve of nearly 40% per year between 2010 and 2013. Estimates from various sources for the number of IoT-enabled devices coming to market by 2020 reach well into the billions -- double-digit billions, like 20 billion to 50 billion.
"We are now living in a world where every device, machine or appliance can be wirelessly connected to the Internet, providing a wealth of real-time information that can transform how people live and work," said Hyunmi Yang, GSMA's chief strategy officer, in a statement.
The buzz is bubbling up, and it's time for supply chain professionals to start paying attention. The days of avoiding the IoT (remember when it used to be called embedded computing?) are gone. If consumer brands like Oral-B can get into the space with smart electric toothbrushes that interface with mobile apps, then who knows what other kinds of devices will be coming to market demanding new hardware form factors; a wide range of component parts; and high levels of software, hardware, and cloud integration.
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— Jennifer Baljko currently serves as a contributing editor to EBN.