Leigh Moody, UK Managing Director at SOTI
From refrigerators and lamps to door locks and heating, the Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionised the way we live and work, making a truly robust ecosystem of smart devices a reality.
Indeed, IoT has quickly become one of the hottest technology topics around, expanding into all manner of industries as the rate of innovation shows no signs of slowing down.
Within the home, IoT has turned everyday objects into connected products designed to make our lives easier, more convenient, and more comfortable. The likes of connected electricity meters and doorbells have already been around for some time, giving consumers a taste of the possibilities on offer.
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And momentum in the industry is continuing to intensify, with the worldwide connected home market predicted to grow from its $24 billion valuation in 2016, to $53 billion by the year 2022.
Smart devices have certainly made their mark among consumers, but this isn’t the only place where IoT is having a significant impact. Connected devices are also quickly becoming more commonplace in industrial settings such as factories and hospitals, as well as in traditional office environments.
It’s an area that more and more device manufacturers are trying to exploit and one that has endless possibilities – especially for those businesses that can learn from what has already happened within the connected home.
IoT in business
As the Internet of Things has become more mainstream, vendors and businesses alike have taken inspiration from the smart home model and quickly realised that connected devices have plenty to offer a B2B environment.
From increased productivity and more accurate decision-making, to reduced production costs and a better understanding of customer needs, there are countless examples of how IoT is bringing value to enterprises around the world.
For example, manufacturing firms have started to deploy smart sensors in their factories for predictive equipment maintenance. This enables them to save valuable money in labour costs and lost revenue by proactively identifying issues before they become a major problem, rather than waiting for something to break down.
Similar ‘smart’ technology is also transforming vehicle management in logistics companies, with the data collected enabling businesses to become much more cost-efficient by reducing fuel spend and vehicle downtime.
Then there is retail, where IoT is being used at virtually all stages of the product journey. This starts with optimising the supply chain and using analytics to ensure the right products are in the right place at the right time, while also enabling brands to transform the in-store experience and connect with shoppers in a more personal way.
These are all hugely compelling use cases, but just the tip of the iceberg with regards to what the Internet of Things will make possible in the future.
So, it’s clear that IoT is set to gain substantial value within the enterprise over the coming years. But, in order for its potential to be realised, there is one key challenge that will first have to be overcome.
Solving the data dilemma
The main driver for enterprise IoT is that the large volumes of data created by connected devices present a huge opportunity. By leveraging the power of analytics – either on a small scale or across large deployments – businesses can gain additional layers of insight into their operations and make improvements.
This is exactly what the smart home enables. By using connected products to track energy usage, for example, consumers can learn where they are spending the most money and become more cost-efficient.
However, from an enterprise perspective, the challenge comes in being able to efficiently manage and control hundreds or potentially thousands of smart devices. Simply keeping track of the vast swathes of data being generated from devices in a range of different locations and from an assortment of vendors, is already a serious issue and is likely to be the biggest IoT challenge IT departments will face in the future.
What they don’t want is to have several platforms pulling in different data streams. Not only would this be hugely confusing to manage, the lack of coordination would create a fragmented picture of what is going on across the business.
Instead, enterprises need to have one integrated view of everything, through one pane of glass, to manage their IoT ecosystem as simply as possible.
Incorporating an effective device management strategy such as this would go a long way towards helping enterprises enable all that the connected future has to offer. IT teams would have full visibility into what is going on across every single endpoint, enabling them to maximise the value of the data being collected.
There may be challenges along the way, but developments in the consumer world have already shown the impact IoT can have on our everyday lives. By taking the concept of the smart home to the next level and putting systems in place to efficiently manage the data that is collected from a growing number of devices, enterprises will be able to innovate and take advantage of the tremendous potential the Internet of Things has to offer.