PwC identifies the Internet of Things as an opportunity for CIOs to evolve their role into a focus on the end customer, gaining the opportunity to be key partners in helping their businesses break new ground. So what is the Internet of Things and how can CIOs exploit its potential?

Since the turn of the century, the internet has quickly changed the way we interact. This is now not only in the context of person-to-person but also people-to-machine and machine-to-machine; from life-saving equipment to everyday household items, advances in technology mean we can communicate with our devices effectively. This technological development is known as the Internet of Things. A good example of this would be a household refrigerator. An internet refrigerator would monitor the items it contains and when it knows something needs replenishing, add that to a shopping list or even inform your local supermarket what you need. The Internet of Things has the potential to improve customer service, cost-savings and innovation – providing massive benefits to the CIO. Helen Duce, Director of the RFID Technology Auto-ID European Centre, University of Cambridge puts it well when she said: “We have a clear vision – to create a world where every object – from jumbo jets to sewing needles – is linked to the Internet. Compelling as this vision is, it is only achievable if this system is adopted by everyone everywhere – Success will be nothing less than global adoption.”

The potential scale of the Internet of Things is huge. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that 50 billion devices could be connected to each other via the internet by 2020. According to Cisco there are potentially 1.5 trillion things that could be connected to the internet, equivalent to about 200 connectable things per person in the world today. Sensors linked to the internet will generate a substantial and continuous flow of data back to the business.

Until now CIOs have focused primarily on developing and improving back-office and front-office processes. The big challenge for the CIO now will be considering innovation and how to maintain relevance and competitive advantage in a world where the vision of Internet of Things is becoming increasingly a reality. With so much information available and so much potential, a good CIO needs to have a clear vision of how to utilise the data to work most effectively for their business. They will already be considering a number of issues including architecture, system and data integration challenges as well as scalability.

Then there is the issue of privacy. All our interactions with technology can paint a very detailed picture of our lives so when does this become a personal invasion and how does a CIO prevent this from happening?

CIOs need to combine technology-enabled security capabilities with policies and processes to protect the privacy of both company and customer data. This is extremely important for maintaining customer relationships and being seen as a trusted brand.

The evolution of the Internet of Things will drive new business opportunities and innovation. CIOs and their teams have many of the skills and competencies that will be needed. They are experienced in designing, deploying and monitoring complex hardware, software and network solutions. They may already manage 24/7 operations and are skilled at integrating, storing and analysing real-time data. CIOs can step forward and work with colleagues on the Board to drive innovation and growth. It is perhaps one of the most compelling business opportunities that CIOs have ever had.

To benefit from this opportunity CIOs need to assess the skills and competency levels of their teams, especially in relevant technologies, business process management, data analytics, telecommunications and security. We are seeing a greater demand from CIOs across the globe for support as they develop their teams to embrace the opportunities, such as the Internet of Things, that enterprises are facing.

Internet of things will reshape CIO agendas