While many organizations have adopted technologies to enable machine-to-machine communications (M2M), that doesn't mean they're enabling the IoT (Internet of Things) at the same time.

According to Claus Mortensen, director of IDC's Asia/Pacific Emerging Technology Research Group, M2M is a subset of IoT--full IoT services are context-aware.

"For instance, a smart fridge connected to a supermarket's ordering system knows when I run out of food and will make an order from the supermarket according to my preferences," he said. "But the fridge is also aware that it doesn't have to do anything when I'm away for vacation for two weeks."

Consumer gadgets' role

Mortensen said that M2M adoption is rising and will take another two to three years to become mainstream. But so far, IoT has been adopted only by organizations in sectors like logistics, healthcare, and government.

"IoT will move beyond these areas and be useful in different sectors including the consumer space," Mortensen said. "But compelling services that offer value are necessary before that can happen."

Whether or not consumer gadgets--like Google Glass and the rumored iWatch--will work is also important to the future development of the IoT landscape, he added.

Gartner's research VP Hung LeHong echoes Mortensen's analysis. "The IoT is still new," he said. "Despite adoption by some enterprises, organizations still seek help to secure IoT implementations."

According to Hung, organizations primarily see the vulnerabilities and privacy invasions that could intrude. Another hurdle is the lack of IoT standards, but Hung said that isn't a show-stopper.

"Most enterprises and others investing in IoT implementations see the lack of standards as creating a more costly and complicated project," he said. "But if they are aggressive enterprises looking for a competitive advantage, they will move forward with measured steps."

The IoT: Wait a decade

Gartner estimates that IoT will take more than 10 years to reach mainstream adoption. "What we mean by mainstream adoption is that 20-30% of adoption will reach across all industries, enterprises, and homes," Hung explained.

That's not to say that IoT isn't making inroads, he said. "It's already here--look at connected automobiles and the smart grid," Hung noted.

In the future, the major IoT players will exist in all industries as all enterprises will utilize the IoT in some way, he predicted. "Because of the industrial sector's early focus on connected assets, you find companies like GE, ABB, Siemens, Bosch, Schneider Electric, and Rockwell Automation as visible players," said Hung.

Cisco and IBM are emphasizing the IoT as well, he added. "Big data vendors are also positioning themselves for machine and thing data, but it's too early to say who'll focus heavily on the IoT."

Use your top processes

As for organizations considering IoT adoption, Hung advised them to examine more advanced industries for ideas--for instance: smart grid, smart city, and industrial automation.

"Purchase a few of the many IoT development boards like mBed, Arduino and experiment with use cases will also help," he said. Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform for anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments while the mbed development platform is for creating devices based on ARM microcontrollers.

For a more thorough investigation of opportunities, organizations should take their top three product lines and top three core processes, and systematically explore the opportunities that arise out of connecting these via IoT, suggested the Gartner research VP.