Does Your Business Need the Internet of Things and Blockchain?

Doug Bannister, Founder & CTO
April 11, 2018
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Experts expect global spending on information technology (IT) to reach an astounding $3.7 trillion in 2018. That’s 4.5 percent more than the spending in 2017, despite relative uncertainty in the market. Growth in several areas of IT will influence this spending, notably the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain.

With IT developing so quickly, it’s increasingly important that business decision makers make informed choices on how to move forward. Many businesses today are prioritizing customer satisfaction and connectivity. To move a company in this direction, executives must decide if IoT and blockchain can help their business.

What is the Internet of Things?

The “Internet of Things” may sound like just a trendy buzzword, but it’s a phenomenon that affects most people in the developed world in 2018. In short, the Internet of Things is the connectivity in everyday devices. Our society has created the Internet of Things by making coffee pots, refrigerators, thermostats, light bulbs, cars and many other objects into data transmitters and receivers. 

Kevin Ashton is the expert credited with coining the term. He said, "If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss, and cost."

What Will the Internet of Things Change?

Many experts may answer this question with one word: everything. It’s true that the Internet of Things has the potential to impact most parts of daily life. However, the leading industries that this technology seeks to change right now are energy, healthcare, retail, logistics, and manufacturing. Whether it’s the step counter on your wrist or the quality-control device on your machinery, it will be nearly impossible to avoid the Internet of Things in coming years.

Unlike other emerging technologies, such as augmented reality and artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things is not a disruptive innovation. Instead, it is an additive. Rather than demolishing existing businesses (like Uber did for taxis), the Internet of Things will drive savvy companies forward.

How to Implement the Internet of Things

The best ways to use the Internet of Things in any business will depend on the company’s needs, industry, and goals. Decision makers should consider where they can get the most value from the Internet of Things. For example, some businesses may want to use this technology to better understand its customers and their needs.

Another company may understand their customers well enough but could use the Internet of Things to make daily operations more efficient. The chances are that if a business faces a fundamental problem, there is some way the Internet of Things can help. 

What is Blockchain?

The term “blockchain” is often used side-by-side with “bitcoin,” which means that sometimes people use these terms interchangeably. While they are interconnected, blockchain and bitcoin are separate terms. Before a professional can decide if blockchain is right for the business, it's essential to understand these two terms fully. 

Bitcoin, in short, is a cyber-currency. Rather than spending a dollar or some other government-backed currency, bitcoin is entirely online. Blockchain is the type of technology that makes spending bitcoin possible.

Blockchain technology creates a record that is not centralized, which is essential to bitcoin and what makes it different than sending a payment of currency over a system like PayPal. Furthermore, blockchain technology is as impossible to change as the serial number on a dollar bill.

Is Blockchain Disruptive?

Unlike the IoT, blockchain is an entirely disruptive innovation. In fact, turning the financial industry on its head is at the core of these technologies. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, many people went in search of an alternative to traditional banking. The answer was bitcoin. Bitcoin would need specialized technology to make it work, and blockchain was born from that need.

Do All Businesses Need Blockchain?

While blockchain may not become as ubiquitous as the IoT (at least, not as quickly), there are plenty of business applications for this emerging technology. Blockchain technology could help a business when it’s time for an audit. It can also help create better contracts and make supply chains more transparent.

Whether your business decides to implement both of these technologies, one, or neither, it is essential for decision makers to stay on top of trends in technology. Things can change quickly in IT, and you can get left behind if you move too slowly.