Dixons and Carphone Warehouse: Shaping Their Own Internet Of Things

As I flicked around the tech websites this morning, I couldn’t help but notice a poll about the ‘Internet of Things’.

Without getting into detail, the poll suggested that most businesses aren’t using it, probably won’t and seem to think it’s just a load of hype.

Once again the tech industry looks to be guilty as charged. And on two counts. Firstly, hype. Secondly, meaningless jargon.

However, it would appear that Carphone Warehouse and Dixons don’t agree with those who took part in the poll – or perhaps they have access to more robust research.

The basis of the merger between the two companies is that an increasing number of devices will be connected to the internet. Dixons supplies the devices and Carphone Warehouse does the connections, so it seems to be the perfect marriage.

So why don’t those businesses that took part in the poll think it’s relevant?

Like many advances in technology, it starts out as a concept.

Typically at this conceptual stage the more mundane practical examples of what’s possible as a result of the technology are overshadowed by the more fanciful.

And that puts it outside most people’s frame of reference. As does the fact they’ve got no experience that would even give them a clue about its potential application.

In reality, the ‘internet of things’ is actually pretty simple; it refers to devices that are connected to the internet, have their own IP address (OK that’s a bit technical) and can transmit data.

So in practical terms, that’s what your phone is doing when it syncs your Strava data with your online account. Or when you access your security cameras remotely. Or adjust the settings on your central heating using an app on your phone (see my previous post).

Or in a business context, when a service engineer completes a job – like replacing a part on a broken boiler – and uses a device to take a picture as proof that it’s been done, and the device automatically (after all, it’s probably best at that point to by-pass the human interface!) uploads that picture into your CRM system.

The chances are, many of the doubters who took part in the poll are already using the internet of things – maybe in a personal context rather than a business context – they just don’t realise.

When they do, let’s hope they have the insight to understand how it might apply in a business context.

However, as with everything that comes with such limitless possibility, there needs to be a word of caution.

This proliferation of connected devices is one of the reasons for the change from IPV4 to IPV6 – although it’s probably better if I get Paul Burns to outline the implications of that in a future blog.

(In simple terms it’s about having a lot more address space to uniquely identify devices that are connected to the Internet. IPv4 has a theoretical maximum of about 4 billion addresses whereas IPv6 has an unthinkable theoretical maximum: about 340 trillion, trillion, trillion addresses.)

There are also the obvious, or maybe not so obvious, security concerns: More devices. More connections. More potential entry point for hackers to get into your network – like your fridge?!

The conclusion? Probably worth speaking to someone who knows how it all works, how it could be of benefit and how to make sure it doesn’t all go pear-shaped!