The “internet of things” (IoT) promises the greatest transformation of business since the Industrial Revolution. This network of unique devices connects people and other devices using internet protocol (IP) connectivity, often without human intervention. Through the IoT, software, computers, the cloud, sensors and other devices can seamlessly merge physical and digital technology for greater efficiency, improved service and better process management. The research firm IDC estimates there will be 30 billion IoT connected devices worldwide by 2020.[1]

The IoT enables the merging of devices and technology such as near field communications (NFC), wearables, biometric readers, voice control and augmented reality. It has tremendous potential to change how businesses re-think work operations and office workspaces by enabling a mobile, virtual workforce. IDC estimates that by 2020, there will be more than 105 million U.S. mobile workers.[2] The fast adoption of smart phones and tablets in the workplace is supporting this transformation, with many companies enacting a corporate “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy that allows workers to use their smart phone or tablet for work and on the go.

Analysts believe the IoT will empower workers to better manage their work lives. For example, connected robots and “avatars” (an icon or figure that represents a person in computer applications, first used in computer games and now found in other applications) may serve as assistants that use sophisticated algorithms to analyze employee behavior from many devices and take over routine tasks.[3] As a worker updates his or her calendar for a business trip, the virtual assistant could research transportation and hotel options in the destination city and coordinate meeting details.

The IoT also can lead to a more efficient level of interaction between co-workers or employees and customers. It promises to improve collaboration and increase productivity between colleagues. For example, the synchronization and interaction of devices could wake you early for work on a heavy traffic day, alert your co-workers of your travel time, and automatically shift a video conference call to an audio call if you are stuck in traffic. It appears that the seamless interconnection of devices to support the workplace has finally arrived.

[1] IDC infographic, “Connecting the IoT: The Road to Success,” developed in 2015, available at: http://www.idc.com/infographics/IoT.

[2] “IDC Forecasts U.S. Mobile Worker Population to Surpass 105 Million by 2020,” IDC press release, June 23, 2015. Available at: https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS25705415

[3] “What the Internet of Things Will Bring to the Workplace,” editorial by Jason Corsello, Wired.com, undated. Available at: https://www.wired.com/insights/2013/11/what-the-internet-of-things-will-bring-to-the-workplace/

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