According to a variety of estimates, the Internet of Things (IoT) will soon comprise more than 50 billion connected devices that continuously collect data on everything from drilling rigs to defibrillators. However, all that data is of limited value unless it can be effectively communicated. This is why most industry analysts say the integration of unified communications (UC) platforms will be essential to the continued growth of the IoT.
By injecting more information-gathering capabilities into all manner of devices, objects and systems, the IoT is helping create a data-driven culture in which evidence drives accurate analysis, rapid decisions and precise responses. However, that can’t happen if data remains trapped in a machine-to-machine communication loop. Human decision-makers need to be able to act on that information.
The tight integration of UC with IoT makes machine-to-human interaction possible. IoT data transmitted from network-enabled devices and objects can connect to the UC system, which can then route messages to specific people based on analytics. Allowing people to access IoT data in real time from any device can significantly improve collaboration and deliver better outcomes.
In industrial settings, for example, sensors have been in use for years to detect, measure and analyze a variety of conditions such as temperature, flow rates, pressure, security and more. With limited communication capabilities, they required a human to read and chart the data for analysis at a later time. In contrast, smart IoT sensors integrated with a UC system can trigger real-time alerts and activate messaging to service technicians or managers when certain conditions are detected.
Healthcare organizations have already begun integrating UC and IoT to send voice, text or video messages to report data about patient vital signs such as heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and temperature. For example, data from a heart monitor can be analyzed instantly, triggering an email or text alert to medical staff if a potential problem is detected.
There are numerous use cases for traditional business settings. Connecting IoT devices with contact-center applications can enable customer service teams to be proactive and predictive. Fleet management can be improved through automated updates about shipment status, mechanical issues, scheduling recommendations and more. Lighting, HVAC systems, building maintenance and security functions can all be configured to trigger alerts under certain conditions.
There are a couple of ways organizations can go about integrating UC with IoT. If you have the staff expertise, the most common approach is through the use of application programming interfaces (APIs), which are device-level connectors that allow applications to communicate with each manufacturer’s IoT devices. APIs enable those devices to transmit data to your applications, acting as a data interface.
If you don’t have staff with API proficiency, there are cloud-based platforms that enable such connections through the use of RESTful APIs. These interfaces use standard HTTP requests, which makes it easy to work with connected IoT objects without needing to know any special protocols.
The information-gathering capacity of IoT devices presents organizations with the opportunity to make faster, better and smarter decisions — but only if they can efficiently collect and analyze that information and communicate it to the right decision-makers. Unified communications platforms can provide the mechanism for disseminating IoT data with automated machine to human interaction.