The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming our world in powerful ways, and companies in many types of industries stand to benefit greatly through improved, data-driven decision-making, and accelerated business processes. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at IoT and its potential for enhancing competitive advantage. We’ll also offer advice for companies as they embark on their digital transformation through IoT, including what to look for in a solutions integrator partner.
“If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things, using data they gathered without any help from us, we would be able to track and count everything and greatly reduce waste, loss, and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing, or recalling and whether they were fresh or past their best.” – Kevin Ashton, former Executive Director of Auto-ID Labs at MIT.
Ashton is often credited as being the first to describe the Internet of Things (IoT) in a presentation he made for Procter & Gamble in 1999. He was ahead of his time in recognizing the importance of the internet and its eventual ability to connect everything. McKinsey & Company expects there to be more than 43 billion IoT connected devices by 2023, and that is just the beginning.1
Manufacturing, logistics, safety, smart buildings, and others are using the IoT at an accelerating rate as indicated by the IoT device market, which is on the rise and poised to reach $1.4 trillion by 2027.2 IoT technology has gone from a nice-to-have novelty to a necessity for digital transformation and sustainable competitive advantage.
Why is IoT important?
IoT makes everyday objects (things) “smart” by enabling them to transmit data and automate tasks, without requiring manual intervention. An IoT device could be something as simple as a health-tracking wearable, or as complex as the millions of connected sensors that comprise a smart city.
The data collected by these “things” can then be analysed or processed to offer advantages to the companies that implement them. A few of the benefits, and examples of each, include:
- Improved data to drive better decision-making. Example: Companies can share detailed cost analysis reports in real-time with their finance teams on the other side of the globe to better allocate spending.
- Easier monitoring, tracking, and maintenance. Example: Companies can keep tabs on employees’ temperatures with IoT wearables.
- Automated processes that enhance workflows. Example: Program a “smart” manufacturing facility to cycle power to machines and turn heat/AC or lighting off/on at designated times to conserve energy.
- Supply chains that are transformed with new operational efficiencies and revenue opportunities. Example: Companies never lose sight of products, with sensors gathering real-time data from production to transport to warehouse storage and retail stocking – reducing the risk of damaged or stolen goods and improving margins with increased oversight.
- An enhanced customer experience that rewards loyal customers and frequent shoppers through active customer monitoring. Example: IoT tracks customers’ online browsing habits and combines with data collected by in-store sensors to offer personalized discounts and maximize conversion rates.
- Better quality of life. Example: Healthcare providers can deliver test results to patients instantly on their cell phones.
These benefits not only help accelerate the digital journey, but they also empower business growth.
How are IoT and Digital Transformation linked?
Computing power has increased about 100 times in the past 15 years2, unlocking the potential for digital transformation and exponential growth.
Digital transformation is all about data. While you can find many complex definitions for digital transformation, the easiest way to think about it is this: Digital transformation enables companies to use data to directly influence business decisions, processes, and growth.
But to unlock the potential created by digital transformation, companies must first establish a digital link between their users and customers and their business to collect data. This is where IoT comes in. IoT refers to a broad range of internet-connected devices that are capable of communicating with one another to accumulate data and share it across a network. In short, IoT gives companies a digital link to data.
As IoT technology becomes more affordable and easier to access and implement, companies big and small can leverage the right IoT platform to begin their own digital transformation. The more digital and connected a company, the greater its competitive advantage, together with the spoils enjoyed by the first movers in each market. More data means more profit.
What is the Competitive Advantage of IoT and Digital Transformation?
IoT is changing the way companies do business and transforming economies around the world. Business leaders are turning to IoT to provide increased visibility for their business value proposition and assets, improve process efficiencies, enhance production, and monitor productivity.
Companies focused on IoT readiness have a competitive advantage that positions them to be market leaders. To remain competitive, businesses must improve their access to information and incorporate automation to enhance decision-making on critical aspects of their business. IoT deployments provide those solutions. Some examples of IoT implementation and operational impact include:
- Ensured business resiliency as businesses navigate potential challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, as IoT allows them to closely monitor employee health.
- Enhanced return on investment (ROI), using data to pinpoint inefficiencies and stop gaps in operational workflows. Companies can streamline processes for a better bottom line.
- Accelerated innovation as businesses continue to collect data on customers’ interactions, the better to personalize and improve the customer journey. Companies can align their marketing strategies with customers’ exact needs.
- Improved data acquisition and remote monitoring capabilities, with environmental sensing helping to avert damage to critical equipment and costly downtime. Physical plants can gain visibility and control temperature, humidity, air quality, and other environmental conditions in data centers, manufacturing floors, or office space.
The Connectivity Challenge
Although IoT offers powerful opportunities for enhanced operational insight, the rapid adoption of this technology is not without its challenges. As companies move through their digital business transformation and start to connect IoT devices to edge computing, local data centers, and data processing applications, they can encounter the following challenges:
- Deploying hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of IoT devices at locations around the world.
- Implementing a reliable, flexible physical infrastructure that can facilitate growth over time.
- Creating a network that can handle the high volume and bandwidth of IoT device traffic.
- Protecting and securing customer data.
- Securing IoT data in transit and at rest from tampering and theft.
Overcoming these challenges is no easy feat. Many businesses rely on experienced service delivery partners to provide consulting and integration expertise on a range of IoT multisite deployment options, structured cabling solutions, network connectivity, and cybersecurity. This enables companies to focus on their core business and minimize the costs associated with implementing, monitoring, and maintaining IoT infrastructure solutions.
Choosing the Right Partner for Your IoT Implementation
Companies need reliable solutions that will connect and secure their infrastructure solutions to capitalize on the benefits of IoT. However, picking the right partner might seem like a daunting challenge for a company that doesn’t specialize in IoT. This is where a solutions integrator can add significant value. Here are a few qualities and capabilities to look for when choosing a solutions integrator:
1. Expertise in implementing IoT solutions.
2. A pre-qualified staff with the right technical certifications.
3. Consistent, repeatable, process-driven methodologies.
4. Standards that are established and implemented.
5. Processes and IT disciplines aligned to required standards.
6. Strong partnerships with multiple vendors to optimum solution choices.
7. Ability to deliver complete solutions aligned to your business outcomes.
As companies embark on their digital transformation and look to the IoT future, the potential rewards are great. The companies that can successfully overcome the connectivity challenges that stand in the way of rapid IoT adoption are the ones that will surge ahead of their competition and build a foundation for long-term success. The right solutions integrator partner can make all the difference, bridging the knowledge gap and smoothing the way to multisite IoT deployment.