The phrase "Internet of things" has become a convenient catch-all for all manner of technologies that carry this common characteristic — they’re capable of sharing their data not only with each other but also with other information technology systems, enabling far deeper insights into how well they’re running and what’s going on around them.
In 2015, more than 15.4 billion gadgets fell into this uber category, according to data from market research firm IHS. That number could double by the end of 2020, and then again by the end of 2025. These "things" can be installed virtually everywhere, from factory floors to streetlights to water pipes — cities alone could spend at least $20 billion on sensor networks by 2020.
But one area to watch closely from sustainability perspective will be technologies related to buildings, both commercial and residential. Think of it this way: the Internet of things (aka IoT) is crucial for broader adoption of smart buildings. That will have big implications for how companies handle energy management. And for the next three years at least, IoT will be more pervasive in smart commercial buildings than anywhere else, suggested consulting firm Deloitte.
Things are certainly pointing up. Revenue related to installations of sensor-equipped lighting, climate control equipment, thermostats and other automation systems could quadruple over the next decade to about $732 billion, predicted Navigant Research in a report published in early December.
"Connected or IoT devices in commercial buildings or homes enable a variety of applications and provide benefits related to automation, convenience and, of course, energy efficiency — and these benefits are starting to resonate among building managers, homeowners, and even renters," said Navigant principal research analyst Neil Strother.
Read more: 10 companies moving up in smart buildings