If you needed more proof that there will be bundles of business opportunities opened up by the Internet of Things - where everything from smartphones to coffee makers to cars will be connected to the Internet via wifi - look no further.

Computing giant IBM has announced a plan to invest $3 billion over four years on a new business aimed at making sense of the immense data that will be generated by the swarms of sensor-equipped devices in our homes, offices, and public spaces.

The Internet of Things refers to the growing network of sensor and Internet-connected devices around us.

"Enchanted objects," as the below video from The New York Times calls them, "are ordinary things that have the same functionality that they did before, except now they can talk, they're connected."

These so-called "enchanted objects" include things like smart watches and other wearable technologies, home electronics and appliances, cars, or even something as simple as an umbrella, which lights up when it's going to rain.

A conservative estimate from the analyst firm Gartner suggested there would be 26 billion connected devices by 2020, but some people estimate that number to be much higher, possibly closer to 100 billion devices, writes Jacob Morgan for Forbes.

In addition to making our homes of the future super-slick - we're totally jealous of the MIT guy's apartment in this video - and way more automated, the Internet of Things is going to generate data… lots and lots of data.

The new IBM business unit will rely on a software they call the Internet of Things Foundation.

As Jeremy Hsu explains for IEEE Spectrum, it "allows partner companies and clients to build new applications - or tweak existing apps - with a focus on analysing data coming from many different devices."

Essentially, companies can register hundreds or thousands of devices, and use IBM services to collect, manage, visualise, store and build useful applications with incoming data.

IBM partnered with Twitter last year to help businesses, NGOs and governments make sense of Twitter-generated data.

They have now announced a similar partnership with the Weather Company, which owns the weather channel.

As Ron Miller explains for Tech Crunch, the Weather Company "gathers data from 100,000 weather stations around the world" and "over time it will layer on information from cars and smart phones."

The partnership with IBM will help developers build applications to make sense of this data, and the benefactors will range from insurance and transport companies, to electricity suppliers and farmers.

But IBM is not alone in its plan to help developers capitalise on this influx of data. General Electric also has an Internet of Things platform called Predix, which is geared at making sense of big data to improve industrial efficiency.

And it's predicted that job opportunities across the industry are going to boom in the coming years, with innovative institutions like James Cook University in Australia now offering courses specialising in the Internet of Things. As the first of its kind in Australia, it's certain to attract a lot of interest from students wanting to get ahead of the job market.

We say bring on big data, and also, cabinets that glow when we're getting a call on Skype - so we can open them up and talk to grandma like she's a tea cup - and umbrellas that will let us know when there's a thunderstorm coming.

Sources: IEEE Spectrum, The New York TimesForbes, Tech Crunch