What does the future hold for your business? With any luck, plenty of growth and a lot of revenue. But no matter where you’re headed, you’ll likely need more devices to get there.

With the Internet of Things (IoT) set to explode over the next five years, businesses are looking at how they can improve their facilities and business processes using smart technology. And that’s impacting IT infrastructure as well. Here’s how we predict technology will evolve over the coming years — and what you can do to get ready.

The IoT Revolution and the Proliferation of Devices

In 2014, the number of mobile devices officially surpassed the number of people on Earth. And it’s only going to increase from there: IT analyst firm Gartner predicts a whopping 20.4 billion internet-connected devices by 2020. That’s a whole lot of electronics!

Where is all that growth coming from? Some of it is from mobile devices, but the bulk will be from the IoT: smart devices capable of connecting to Wi-Fi. Think of your TV, for instance: If you bought it in the last three years, chances are that it’s capable of connecting to the internet in some fashion. Other examples include Amazon Echo and Google Home; if you own one of these devices, you’re participating in the Internet of Things.

The concept extends well beyond entertainment, however. Futurists are predicting an internet-connected future in which lighting, heating and cooling, security systems, and more are all Wi-Fi enabled. This allows for remote management and, in many cases, better efficiency and reduced facilities costs, since many devices are capable of monitoring their own performance and even self-correcting their behavior (also known as machine learning). In short, we are headed toward smarter, more streamlined facilities management.

What Is a Smart Building, and How Will It Affect Your Business?

All of the smart devices used to monitor and manage building systems are known collectively as the “smart building.” Although it may seem futuristic, many businesses have already begun making the change, and tech companies like Hitachi and IBM are investigating full-service digital systems that will equip smart buildings with ethernet-powered lighting, occupant-sensitive heating and cooling, and data-collecting sensors.

The impact of these smart buildings will be enormous. Most notably, smart features are set to save money by improving energy efficiency. However, sensored tools can also improve business efficiency by tracking traffic patterns and customer behaviors to increase productivity and provide consumer insights.

Deploying these features may mean examining your existing networks. Processing big data and managing IoT systems requires a powerful, well-configured ethernet or fiber network that will give you the kind of performance you need.

Building the Backbone to Support IoT

Those network requirements are precisely where structured cabling can help. Installing cabling now future-proofs your offices for upcoming advances. Ethernet or fiber cable not only fortifies your network, allowing you to handle more traffic and bandwidth, but also allows you to power devices directly through your cabling, rather than drawing electricity from a separate outlet. In that way, you can streamline power structures, reducing parts and maintenance.

Investing in cabling now also connects all your workstations, communication and security systems, and independent devices back to your telecommunications room. Structured cabling provides the infrastructure and organization you need when it’s time to make changes to your network.