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Consumer vs. Business Usage of IoT Devices

What are they key differences between the Internet of Things for consumers and businesses? How can industrial IoT improve your business processes?

Internet of Things Devices: Differences Between Consumer and Business Options

The definition of Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the uncountable number of devices across the globe that are connected to the internet, collecting and sharing data. From lightbulbs to cars and airplanes, billions upon billions of devices are now internet-connected, providing a level of digital intelligence to these devices that would otherwise be "dumb." If an item can be connected to the internet and controlled that way (i.e. turning on your stove from an app or opening your garage door when your car drives within 100 yards), it is part of the IoT. Some consider IoT to be the next phase of computing.

IoT: Consumer vs. Business

The IoT continues to grow, with more connected devices than people in the world (approximately 8.4 billion IoT devices in use in 2017 compared to a world population of 7.53 billion). More than half of those devices are consumer products such as smartphones, smart refrigerators, thermostats, fitness wearables — even smart toothbrushes. The list grows are more devices become capable of internet connectivity and usher in an era of home automation technology. Consumer devices are built to last up to a certain point; however, manufacturers know that the lifespan will most likely be short since new and improved devices will come in as replacements after a few years.

From a consumer's point of view, the smart devices and their management is isolated to a single user or to the family members that come into contact with the smart thermostats, lights, computers, speakers and more. The management interface software and security of "smart home" devices are simpler for that reason.

However, there is another segment to the IoT that requires more in-depth awareness of what is going on with their devices — businesses. Sometimes known as Industrial IoT, business devices need to survive in environments that would not be encountered by consumers — whether that means extreme external temperatures and corrosive environments encountered by wastewater alarm systems, or extreme use such as network servers handling millions of hits every day. These devices will need different industry-specific certifications and can require complex infrastructure like edge computing to keep them operating outside of a single facility. Business networks might need to manage hundreds, thousands or millions of internet-connected devices at one time, as well as the resulting analytics.

Industrial IoT Concerns

There are a number of items regarding IoT devices that businesses need to be concerned with that don't apply to consumers.

Scalability - Today's workforce is spread across the globe, and many businesses have offices and employees stationed in different countries, time zones and work environments. Because their systems utilize gigabytes of IoT data, businesses need to consider the transmission of such information from the devices (whether computers, sensors, cameras, etc.) to their final destination and platform. The business's IoT ecosystem system needs to scale easily and maintain connectivity should another device need to be added quickly — for example, if a wastewater system needs to add another alarm or a city needs to add more traffic cameras to its smart city grid.

Communications and Power Requirements - Industrial IoT devices are often installed at remote locations that are difficult to physically access in order to collect analytics when people can't monitor things firsthand. This includes weather stations, manufacturing plants, water reservoirs, offshore oil wells, etc., where it is usually impossible to monitor conditions in real-time. Other devices can power smart cities by using sensor data to optimize utilities and more across municipalities. Since it is difficult and expensive to deploy technicians to these areas when the devices start experiencing issues, industry IoT devices need to have industrial-grade engineering. This includes industrial-strength batteries, networks that support both IoT-specific and more conventional technologies, the ability to be remote controllable and more.

Cybersecurity - A hack into your personal device can be devastating, but the effects would be localized. The same cannot be said for attacks on industrial IoT systems, which can connect sensors to critical infrastructure resources such as power plants and water management facilities. Because of the scale of things they control, industrial IoT devices must meet far more demanding cybersecurity requirements before installation.

Industrial IoT Benefits

In terms of industrial IoT, organizations can realize great benefits from IoT solutions and having all their devices interconnected. Businesses can monitor their overall business processes to ultimately improve the customer experience, adapt business models to better fit needs and make better business decisions. Interconnectivity can improve the customer experience, hopefully leading to greater revenue generation. Businesses can enhance employee productivity, saving time and money that can be used to better improve the organization.

Business IoT requires more in-depth thought to security, scalability and overall requirements than consumers using smart devices. But with so much interconnectivity, companies can rethink their approach to business, industry and the market, allowing them to improve their strategies and grow.

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