When you think about the devices where some level of embedded intelligence could help make huge gains in improving productivity, the possibilities seem almost endless.
On one side you have lower-cost sensors becoming increasingly available, while on the other side, the cost of using cellular technology to connect those sensors back to an enterprise application are dropping.
The result is an increased opportunity for IT to add business value by attaching higher levels of automation to any number of embedded systems, whether that is something as simple as a kiosk dispensing soda to something more complex such as a scanner at an airport or a medical device in a hospital. Those devices can now even be embedded into systems on moving vehicles, such as trucks making various delivery runs or containers on a ship.
A good example of a vendor that enables a lot of this kind capability for IT organizations is Axeda, which has pioneered a lot of the wireless connectivity required to link previously isolated systems back to a remote set of management applications.
What makes this interesting is not such much that we can gather data from the sensors, but rather that we can set up bi-directional communications. For instance, a sensor could tell us that the temperature on a shipping container has changed, which in turn could kick off a number of alerts and corrective actions. Similarly, the daily traffic flow of a fleet of delivery trucks could be optimized based on traffic conditions and what each truck is carrying at a given moment.
We like to think that everything that IT can automate mostly has already been done. But that's only when we look inside the office. When you start to look outside the office, there are all kinds of new possibilities for extending the value of IT in innovative ways that have compelling business value.