The term Internet of Things (IoT), has evolved significantly beyond the remit of its original context defined in 1999. It now refers to a connected ecosystem where both ordinary and emerging devices are wirelessly (via a variety of technologies) connected to the internet as well as each other, often bringing with them advanced analytics-based capabilities that enable entirely new business models.
IoT looks far beyond its initial machine-to-machine (M2M) roots. For some industries the IoT may still mean connecting parts of the supply chain, detecting faults or keeping an eye on production parameters. For others, it could mean life-enhancing insights via wearables, clinical adherence or household security.
Most enterprise use-cases of IoT started with preventive maintenance. However, the rapid evolution of this technology and a proliferation of purpose-built platforms have now enabled businesses to look at IoT as an enabler of value and efficiencies beyond simple maintenance of machinery and other components. Examples of other use cases that we have seen IoT deliver considerable benefits include:
The power in IoT comes from both the availability and ubiquity of relatively cheap sensors & devices, but also in the connected eco-system combining these together and building automated activities within the eco-system – e.g. automated replenishment scheduling based on senor stock levels.
IoT is not just about sensors but also devices, being able to not just monitor but also securely manage remote environments using interoperable solutions.
IoT is enabling new business models and areas, when the IoT data and meta-data becomes a business asset itself and a saleable item – look at car traffic data, gathered in anonymous aggregation from mobile device movement and monetised in the vehicle route mapping.
Organisations starting out on their IoT journey must focus their attention on the following key strategic considerations to improve their chances of a successful IoT deployment.
Strategy - Understanding the IoT value-chain and its implications on their specific business today and in the foreseeable future. This should include developing a view of the business constraints and risks that the technology could mitigate or even completely disrupt.
Technology - The technology ecosystems and their overlap along the dimensions of ‘People’, ‘Things’ and ‘Processes’. It is key to understand any potential constraints that may inhibit the scalability of the IoT solution as data volume and complexity evolves.
Security - Having a clear strategy around protecting sensor data as well as personal and proprietary data across jurisdictions. This must also include having robust intrusion detection mechanisms with ML/AI techniques deployed to continuously learn constantly changing intrusion patterns. As well as strong and flexible encryption management, to cope with inevitable evolving security protocol and key breaches. Similarly, clearly managing the association of IoT devices and data to relevant identities is often a complex and evolving challenge (how does the car know who it is actually behind the wheel etc).
Lifecycle - IoT devices will likely have a long duration of deployment (think age of buildings, cars etc) and thus the solutions must be able to cope with many variants of device, many ages of device, updating and through-life management of devices. Both the IoT solution technology provider and the business user must have a strategy that fully embraces an active long-term through life management approach.
IoT whilst being an exciting new horizon of possibilities is not without its challenges. Given its growth over a relatively short amount of time, it’s not surprising that standards for IoT are still a work-in-progress and where available are not widely adopted. This is starting to change as 5G adoption starts to drive more IoT thinking and opportunity spotting. However, the challenge of data security regulations and the financial consequences of a possible misstep have inevitably slowed down IoT adoption especially among smaller businesses. Even then, the fact that the number of intelligent connected devices has now surpassed human population on the planet, is testament to the optimism around what is possible with the IoT. Businesses that carefully navigate the initial rough waters will eventually reap significant rewards from successful deployments. The possibilities are endless and exciting.