Last week two big 2017 events in the IT industry – Enterprise IoT Summit and Enterprise Connect – covered the latest developments in enterprise communications, collaboration, and the Internet of Things.  IT and business leaders gained a view of what to expect and how to prepare for an exciting future.

Jan Geldmacher, president at Sprint Business was a speaker at both events and talked about what he’s seeing and how it’s likely to impact the future of business.

“Today we have more smartphones on the planet than toothbrushes”

According to Geldmacher, we are at a pivotal moment in the world of connected technology – the “sensing boom”.

The “sensing boom” stems from an idea put forward by tech visionary and Softbank founder and CEO, Masayoshi Son: “The boom in the rate at which we are starting to collect, analyze and ultimately glean knowledge from data is like the Cambrian explosion; the period during which prehistoric creatures developed the five senses.”

It was after this moment in evolution that life started to progress at an astounding rate. Son expects we’re about to undergo a similar technological transformation with IoT, where we’ll see billions or even trillions of connected devices transforming businesses.

Technology already moves at a remarkable pace—far faster than evolution. It may have taken 55 million years for the full effects of the Cambrian explosion to set in, but in 25 years, we’ve gone from the invention of the web browser to cars that can drive themselves.

In terms of the Internet of Things, it’s like 1997 was for the Internet. And as Geldmacher and Son point out, things are about to get exciting.

Three big challenges

Today’s businesses are encountering three massive challenges, each of which is transforming the way we work.

A changing workforce.  With new generations entering the workplace and current ones retiring later – each with their own behaviors, devices, and demands – we now have a more diverse workforce than ever before. Couple this with mobile and other technologies blurring the lines of the work/life balance and a host of new challenges appear.

Globalization.  Technology is now also blurring geographical lines. Combined with globalization, it has made trade more open and brought new opportunities, such as giving businesses the ability to hire the best talent no matter where they live. But it has also brought new competition.

Digitization.  Businesses are well on their way to connecting everything to everything. The result is a growing number of new technology-powered opportunities in manufacturing, energy, agriculture, transportation and other key industries that account for around two-thirds of the global GDP.

New tools for new tasks

Meeting these demands will require new tools and techniques.

Take for example the latest leaps in robotics, where humanoid robots can respond to our tone of voice, gestures or facial movements in near real-time, using a variety of sensors to replicate human behavior.

The robot known as, Pepper, Geldmacher pointed out, is already changing the way banks and retailers interact with their customers.

Another example Geldmacher cited is the advances Sprint has made with connected vehicles. Currently, Sprint manages 54 million data points sent from connected cars every day, which equates to 400,000 simultaneous data streams at any given moment.

This data controls predictive maintenance, accident alerts, in-car entertainment and more.

Soon these cars will be connected with other cars, traffic, roads and people. And those robots? They’ll be interacting with people in real time.

For all of this to happen we need networks fast enough to keep up with the demands for the new world. These networks must work across more than one spectrum to make sure that data can travel seamlessly whether you’re using WiFi, 5G, Bluetooth or whatever else.

Getting to the ROI of IoT

94% of investments in IoT deliver some sort of ROI, from increased revenue to improved efficiency.

The most important thing to know about the Internet of Things is that you can’t do it alone. Geldmacher emphasizes that partnering with different players – software vendors, network operators, application providers, or systems integrators – is vital to the success of your business endeavors.

Does your business have a strategy to capture this ROI? Is your business prepared to transform?  Now’s the time to begin.