The “Internet of Things” (IoT) may sound like the futuristic wave of talking refrigerators and self-starting cars, but Internet-connected devices that communicate with one another will affect our lives outside the “smart home” as well. For workers,  IoT will change the way we work by saving time and resources and opening new opportunities for growth and innovation.

More efficient commutes on the way

About 15 percent of commute time is spent in traffic, and about 17 percent of fuel is wasted in cities by drivers sitting at red lights. Sensors on our roads, traffic video cameras and median dividers will affect how our vehicles will “talk” to drivers. By monitoring traffic speed, stoplights, accidents and current road conditions, programmable cars and even roads will push the most efficient routes to drivers’ mobile devices, cutting down commute time, saving gas money and making our roads safer.

Predicting product health

After a product is shipped, the interaction between the buyer and the vendor usually subsides, at least until the next buying period or a problem arises. Proactive technology can monitor the “health” of products to pinpoint issues before they arise. In this era of next-generation customer service, proactive product monitoring means a company can keep customers happy, watch product health around the clock and avoid problems.

Productivity at work

The rise of social media has given way to a new age of communications and team collaboration. Valuable tools from the likes of Box, Skype, Jive and Facebook have captured the attention of the next-generation workforce. Video collaboration and imaging will take hold as millennials and digital natives rely on text messaging, FaceTime and Google Hangouts for true integrative communication at work, saving time and blurring social tools with modern collaborative work systems.

Giving structure to unstructured data

Big data isn’t just big—it’s huge. If used well, big data can create new value across the business when unstructured data is converted into structured data. Analyzing data and breaking it down into meaningful intelligence and analytics can tell a richer story about customers, product behavior, market position, employee productivity and more.

Greener enterprises

Sensory meters have already been operating in a small number of office buildings and homes today, but going forward, this will become a necessity in building standards for modern building infrastructures. Installed movement sensors can turn off or on lighting fixtures, heaters/air conditioning, coffee machines and televisions as people move throughout the room or head home. These sensors are already integrated into blinds, using temperature and sunlight to determine how far they open and close, which can improve energy efficiency, save money and help the environment.

Location, location, location

IoT will make location tracking simpler. Currently done via phones, cars and even in hospitals, Internet-connected equipment and devices will be geographically tagged, saving valuable resources. Companies will be able to track every aspect of their business quickly, from inventory to order fulfillment, to locating and deploying field services and staff. Tools, factories and vehicles will all be connected by location-based technology, making the entire chain ever more efficient.

Save time and get more out of your day

Other than controlling other IoT devices, your smartphone will also be much like a remote control for your life. One of the most convenient aspects of IoT is that you have devices that “know” you and will help save time by allowing you to get in and out of places and conduct transactions faster using a mobile device. With these sensors, even just getting your morning coffee will eliminate the need to wait in line for a less stressful start to your day. For instance, wireless sensors can detect when you walk into a Starbucks, which alert the barista of your likely order based on your order history.  You can then confirm or choose a different order, then pay for it using your phone.

Planning work around the weather

Today, weather forecasts rely on a few satellites or ground-based weather stations as primary data-gathering points. In the future, billions of sensors will be integrated into different devices and stations in the sky and on the ground. Using big data analysis to better predict the Earth’s health will enable more sophisticated and accurate weather and climate-change predictions. This will mean more accurately forecasting extreme weather well in advance so that commuters can better plan a work week. On a global scale, the IoT can mean more accurately predicting climate trends and natural disasters.

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