Experts predict that the installed base of the Internet of Things devices will exceed 26 billion by 2020, so if your company isn’t adopting this technology now, you’ll regret it much sooner than you realize.

The Internet of Things (IoT) might strike many as just another buzzword tossed around in the business community, a trend not unlike “synergy” (remember that?) that will lose any and all currency by this time next year.

But according to the experts at Gartner, anyone who mistakes this burgeoning new tech sector for a passing phase might be signing their company’s death warrant.

What Will All These Devices Do?

According to Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2015 report, Gartner predicts that “by 2020, the installed base of the IoT will exceed 26 billion units worldwide; therefore, few organizations will escape the need to make products intelligent and the need to interface smart objects with corporate systems.”

The Internet of Things devices will extend far beyond small comforts like a smart thermometer or a remote-controlled dog feeder — every aspect of business, from manufacturing, to distribution, to marketing, will rely on this still-growing tech infrastructure.

Given that the groundwork for this immense network of “smart” objects is still growing, executives only have two choices: get in on the ground floor, or pay to play in a world that your competitors built.

When mobile technology and search became buzzworthy a few years ago, many companies neglected to focus their resources on sleek, mobile optimized websites and applications. Five years from now (if not sooner), corporations with no real investment in IoT initiatives will start feeling a similar regret about their decision.

Opportunities for Innovation

If this is a prospect that you find frightening, consider all the opportunities for improvement and cost-saving offered by the Internet of Things. Aspects of your business model and supply chain that were previously incompatible with technology can suddenly be improved by the addition of interoperable hardware.

If you’re transporting your product by rail, put sensors along the tracks so that you and possibly even consumers can track the progress of shipments. If you’re in energy, use meters to measure consumers’ consumption and spending — look at companies like Nest, who use smart thermostats to raise awareness about energy use.

With a little research and some imagination, it’s possible to make almost any aspect of the way you do business more efficient, trackable, and just downright simpler for your customers.

It’s part of an executive’s job to be searching for innovative solutions to problems within and around their business — if you’re not looking to IoT technology for solutions, you’ve got something bigger than a blind spot.

Some predictions measure the impact of this still developing industry to be $7.1 trillion in five years. If you don’t reach for your share of the IoT bounty, your competitors will grab it before you know it’s gone.