Minority Report, the 2002 sci-fi thriller starring Tom Cruise, follows the plight of John Anderton, who’s on the run from a special police unit that uses technology to catch killers-to-be before they strike. In one of the movie’s iconic scenes, Anderton ducks into a high-tech shopping mall filled with digital signage that scans his retinas to know which personalized advertising messages to pitch to him. Never mind that he’s borrowing someone else’s bio-optics so there’s a mismatch of buyer personas.

I was reminded of the film a few weeks ago when I strolled the floor at the Internet of Things (IoT) Forum in Chicago (thankfully, without being badgered by talkative holograms and signs). Instead of seeing anything as sinister as what Hollywood can conjure, I was reminded of something more meaningful: The strategic opportunities are endless with modern, secure and privacy conscious networks of interconnected sensors and analytics solutions.

A keynote by John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, the event’s main sponsor, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, drove home this point. They showed how the city of Chicago is using Internet of Everything

(IoE)  – a combination of people, processes, data analytics and devices or “things” – solutions to enhance public safety and reduce expenses for taxpayers. One example: The Chicago Police Command Vehicle provides mobile command and control and an enhanced police presence. The vehicle, which takes advantage of telepresence tools, relies on a network managed by the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Public safety officials aren’t the only ones considering the IoT. A recent survey of officials from a number of industries, conducted by Cisco, shows that IoT investments over the next three years will increase by:

  • 91% in oil and gas
  • 89% in utilities
  • 86% in manufacturing and transportation
  • 79% in retail

Bolstering these numbers are the results of a survey by Forrester Research in late 2014. It shows that more than 80 percent of business executives across numerous industries consider the IoT to be the top strategic technology for their organizations in the next decade.

How to Plan for IoT

What does IoT mean for CIOs who must map out IT plans for the months ahead? Two considerations are key. First, IT leaders must understand that, for now, IoT solutions aren’t prepackaged products available from a single vendor. In fact, three distinct industry groups are responsible for creating and delivering IoT elements today:

  • Operational technology manufacturers:  Organizations such as Rockwell Automation, Honeywell, GE, Schneider Electric and Siemens build the sensors and related equipment that monitor devices such as manufacturing conveyor belts, industrial refrigerators and furnaces, as well as delivery trucks.
  • IT vendors:  Cisco, Oracle, IBM and others are providing components that enable operational devices to connect to and communicate with the network.
  • Reseller partners:  CDW and others are playing a pivotal role in helping enterprises determine the right mix of hardware and software for IoT solutions, and — just as importantly — working to ensure that all the pieces work together as a cohesive whole.

Second, IT managers must remember that IoT success lives or dies with networks. Merely collecting data from hundreds or thousands of devices does little strategic good unless it can be communicated in near-real time to a central location where sophisticated analytics tools give it meaning. That requires a reliable, high-speed and secure networking infrastructure using the latest wired and wireless technologies as well as management best practices.

Long-term Benefits

We expect to see a sharp increase in IoT interest in the coming months from a diverse cross-section of customers. It’s still the early days, but one thing is clear: IoT will deliver the kinds of strategic opportunities that most enterprises see only once a decade.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.