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Internet of Things Begins to Prove Itself to the Business

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Today’s leading technology initiatives from AI to edge computing to digital twins are all made possible with IoT.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been on the scene for several years, promising an impressive pallet of enhanced services and capabilities, from product health checks to security monitoring. And, at last, demonstrable business benefits are now apparent.

That’s the word from a Microsoft-commissioned survey, based on the responses of 3,000 decision-makers from a range of industries and countries. There’s no question executives see the value in IoT – 90% said they believe the Internet of Things is critical to their companies’ continued success, and 64% said they plan to implement even more IoT solutions in the future.

Increasing productivity, specifically yield (86%) and efficiency (79%), also carries through as a top benefit of IoT. As they did in 2019, enterprise companies remain highly reliant on the production and operational efficiencies IoT provides. 54% of companies surveyed say that IoT has helped them increase operational efficiency, while 47% cite IoT as a reason for enhanced employee productivity. Businesses also say IoT is instrumental to increasing yield: 46% say it increases production capacity, and 44% report it provides cost savings, with 43% seeing a reduction in business expenses. Other reported top benefits of IoT include quality (77%) and safety (41%).

The Covid-19 crisis is also prompting greater investments in IoT projects, the survey shows. One-third report plans to increase investment in IoT due to Covid-19, while just 16% reported plans to decrease their IoT investments.

IoT adoption is now ubiquitous, the survey’s authors report. Ninety-one percent adopted IoT in 2020, up from 85% a year ago. Plus, eight in 10 having at least one project in the use phase. That is up from seven in 10 in the prior year).

Use cases abound

The main use cases for IoT include optimizing productivity and operations, along with securing the environment. Within industries, unique use cases include production management and automation in manufacturing, grid asset management in energy, supply chain, and inventory optimization in retail, and security, compliance, and inventory and staff tracking in healthcare.

One of the top reasons for the Internet of Things adoption is safety and security, with 47% of businesses citing it as a main focus for the technology. Industry experts tell us this use is more applicable to securing the IT environment, versus securing employee and workplace safety. Another 47% say they adopted IoT to optimize operations, while 45% adopted it for quality assurance. Other reasons for IoT adoption include energy optimization (32%) and sustainability (31%).

Measuring IoT’s impact continues to be a challenge for enterprises, the Microsoft survey shows. “While organizations have realized early successes with their IoT projects, the marginal impact of subsequent investments will be more difficult to measure,” the survey’s authors point out. Scaling IoT in enterprises is also problematic, with growing complexity and technical obstacles. “Adopt IoT as part of a broader culture change, and who prioritize investing in the right staff could overcome barriers sooner,” the authors explain.

Today’s leading technology initiatives are interwoven with IoT. Artificial intelligence, edge computing, and digital twins are all made possible with an IoT foundation. Much of these efforts are still in their early stages, the survey’s authors add. “Substantial opportunity remains for organizations to explore and tap into different uses of artificial intelligence and edge computing, while digital twins are still finding a foothold.” Those who are incorporating emerging technologies into their IoT solution realize more success with the Internet of Things overall, because once the value is proven, it’s easier to build buy-in across the organization.”

The survey also documented leading use cases across key industries. The use cases include:

Manufacturing

  • Production flow monitoring 47%
  • Industrial automation 44%
  • Production planning and scheduling 44%
  • Quality and compliance 41%
  • Process optimization 39%

Retail

  • Supply chain optimization 42%
  • Surveillance and security 40%
  • Inventory optimization 39%
  • Connected logistics 36%
  • Digital distribution center 35%

Healthcare

  • Tracking inventory 49%
  • Tracking staff 45%
  • IT security 44%
  • Compliance 41%
  • Facilities management 40%

Power & Utilities

  • Grid asset maintenance 46%
  • Smart metering 41%
  • Generation optimization & load balancing 41%
  • Smart grid automation 40%
  • IT security 40%
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About Joe McKendrick

Joe McKendrick is RTInsights Industry Editor. He is a regular contributor to Forbes on digital, cloud and Big Data topics. He served on the organizing committee for the recent IEEE International Conference on Edge Computing (full bio). Follow him on Twitter @joemckendrick.

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