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The Internet of Things: why you should care

Ian McMurray 10 February 2015

This may be the first ISE at which you’ll hear more than one person talk about the ‘Internet of Things’. You’re likely to hear a whole lot more about it at future ISEs, because it will have the same profound effect on the AV industry that it will have on every industry. That’s why the likes of Cisco and GE are investing billions of dollars in it.

But what’s it all about? Simply: until now, the Internet has been about connecting people – with information, with each other – and with shopping opportunities. Today, there are a little short of three billion people connected to the Internet. Cisco believes that, by 2020, there will be 40 billion things connected. That’s a key reason why we needed IPv6.

Omnipresent connectivity
Connectivity – wired and wireless – is now all but omnipresent. Even the simplest pieces of equipment have some form of intelligence built into them. As such, they can communicate with each other.

Why would they want to, though? Of course, everyone has heard about the refrigerator that knows you’re running low on milk and that automatically orders more from your supermarket, to be delivered to your door. That’s a somewhat trivial example of the power of sensors: this refrigerator has a milk sensor that detects the presence or absence of milk…

But sensors are routinely included in almost everything we use – sensors for low oil pressure, sensors that tell you the coffee machine needs refilling, sensors that tell the central heating to turn on.

Sensors can turn information into action – and that’s the real power and potential of the Internet of Things. The trick is to make those sensors capable of acquiring even more data – and then capturing, analysing and acting upon that data.

The Internet of Things is captivating the industrial world, where it’s known as the Industrial Internet. It could become similarly transformative in the AV world. Imagine every element of an installation capturing information about its own performance. What are its usage patterns? How close to its operating margins is it running at? How many small, but self-recovered, failures has it experienced?

Transformational

Supposing you could capture, analyse and act upon that information? You’d transform maintenance, for a start. Routinely maintaining a piece of AV equipment – a projector, for example – that is operating perfectly is a waste of time and money. Waiting for it to fail before maintaining it will cause customer dissatisfaction.

‘Predictive maintenance’ is the buzz phrase. Where it gets clever, though, is that, instead of predicting when a class or type of machine will need to be maintained – you can predict when each individual piece of equipment will need it, based on the data it has captured, stored and transmitted about itself. The potential productivity, cost savings and customer satisfaction improvements are totally compelling.

Maintenance is, of course, just one way in which sensor-derived data can be used. It could equally easily be used to identify the need for an upgrade – higher-bandwidth video processing, for example. There are countless others – including, of course, where intelligent connected machines ‘converse’ and interact to operate together more effectively.

It goes without saying: the principle of intelligent communication between pieces of electronic equipment is nothing new to the AV industry. It’s been woven into the fabric for years. But the Internet of Things will provide both a challenge and an opportunity to manufacturers and integrators alike.

In the future, an AV installation will no longer be an island of connectivity. It will include products with increased intelligence and numerous sensors that will communicate with each other, with their users and with the outside world to deliver unprecedented levels of functionality and availability.

The Internet of Things will become utterly pervasive – and the AV industry stands to benefit significantly. Here’s looking forward to ISE 2020.

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