The Internet of things (IoT) has generated a lot of attention this year. Just look at some of the conference agendas on your desk, and you'll find the term listed in the title of a keynote address or a breakout session. So is IoT something you need to pay attention to, or is it little more than hype at this point?

To begin, let's start with a common definition. According to IT research firm Gartner, Inc. (IT), the Internet of things is the "network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment."

In a recent report, Gartner said the Internet of things will grow to 26 billion units installed in 2020, a small sign of what the channel can expect from the concept in the upcoming year.

Additionally, Gartner noted, "product and service suppliers will generate incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion," adding that "most of this projected revenue will be gained through service suppliers."

Gartner Research Director Peter Middleton said in a prepared statement that units connected to Internet of things will soon exceed other connected devices.

"By 2020, the number of smartphones tablets and PCs in use will reach about 7.3 billion units," Gartner said. "In contrast, the IoT will have expanded at a much faster rate, resulting in a population of about 26 billion units at that time."

SOTI COO Ron Hassanwalia said in an interview that with the "lowering of cost and making things more readily available, the consumer market is being bombared by this market of Internet of things," pointing out that "it's going to change the way we manage devices."

"By 2020, component costs will have come down to the point that connectivity will become a standard feature, even for processors costing less than $1," Middleton said. "This opens up the possibility of connecting just about anything, from the very simple to the very complex, to offer remote control, monitoring and sensing."

To adjust to this need, vendors will have to think outside the box, Hassanwalia said. "As we move into the Internet of things, what SOTI has been doing already is working with various manufacturers of various accessories and finding out how we can not only configure the applications, but in turn configure the hardware."

As we see more growth in connected devices -- or things -- Gartner said IoT will  "facilitate new business models, such as usage-based insurance calculated based on real-time driving data."

Emerging markets, including healthcare, will "operate more efficiently through the use of smart building technology," Gartner concluded.