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Intelligence Brief: IoT is a journey

On 7 September I made my way to Islington Business centre to attend IoT Tech Expo. An actual, physical event. In person. That and to moderate a session: IoT enabled Digital Transformation.

Connected, IoT-enabled devices have become an inherent part of everyday life across consumers, enterprises and wider society. I am not only talking about barking commands at Alexa, regulating temperature via a connected thermostat or chatting to a Postie over a connected doorbell.

For instance, our commute relies on telematics data from trains, buses and taxis. And when these systems go offline, for whatever reason, there are consequences. Recently in my research on 2G/3G shutdowns [1] I called on an example of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which took weeks to update after the 2G network shutdown. This resulted in around 70 per cent of buses and trains disappearing from the NextMuni system map, which tracks vehicle locations in real time and predicts arrival times.

Not surprisingly, the conference agenda revolved around digital transformation and the impact IoT has across multiple sectors, while the topic of data and data analytics took centre stage.

Below are some of the key takeaways.

Start with a business case
Steve Hewitt, chairman of the MESA UK Special Interest Group warned most people start their IoT projects with technology which is why 70 per cent to 80 per cent of proof-of-concepts fail and go nowhere. The right way is to start with the why (value) rather than the what (technology). Only after the value and the outcomes are measurable can the technology discussion start.

Pirelli Deutschland’s former head of digital innovation Richard Allbert quoted Gene Haas, owner of the namesake Formula 1 team: “We’ve got a lot of data but we still run like dogs**t.”

Apart from being a really good insight to the realities into Formula 1 racing, this highlights a lot of frustration felt around IoT-enabled products and services if the integration isn’t done right or if a feedback loop to the business is missing. In essence, just deploying technology to capture data isn’t enough. One needs to know what to do with that data and the business outcome. After all, enterprises really don’t care about the tech they want to solve a problem, as such 49 per cent of enterprises see IoT as transformational to their company and industry.

It’s all about data
Enterprises of all sizes deploy IoT solutions to: a) connect assets; b) collect data; c) analyse (make use of data); and d) improve their business (processes, products et cetera), then go through this virtuous cycle again and again. The primary goal is to increase productivity, achieve cost savings/process efficiency and, through better insights, to offer tailored products/services.

However, there are some common pitfalls that should be avoided. Mike Bowers, chief architect at FairCom, advised the first step is to gather data via software to get it from all the various protocols then your data scientist can look at it to say what data is good to make decisions. This prevents getting into a data ocean situation where an enterprise drowns in a massive amount of useless data.

An Airbus collaboration with Palantir Technologies is a great example of scaling up:

Phase 1 included 50 users and achievement was to increase production of the A350 aircraft by 33 per cent
In Phase 2, users increased to 500 with integration including 20 adjacent use cases including supply chain
Phase 3 saw Skywise, an open data platform, extending to the entire aircraft industry
In Phase 4, currently Skywise has 130 airlines on board the platform and almost 20,000 users

During a panel session titled Fuel of the Future – a Holistic look at the Smart Energy and Sustainability Space, Nathan Pierce, programme director for Sharing Cities with the Greater London Authority, shared interesting insights.

Using data and running algorithms, they can optimise energy usage, some of which can be achieved through digital twinning (10 per cent to 15 per cent cost reduction). Analysing data allows for additional carbon savings, for example if a lamppost is broken the platform makes it visible, removing the need to drive around looking for it.

People matter
Employee/internal resistance shows the largest increase compared with 2018, when it was at 26 per cent (see chart, below, click to enlarge). This reflects the fact education on the benefits of IoT has to extend beyond C-level executives, requiring buy-in from people on the ground to adhere to changes. There is a need to think about the end users when designing an IoT solution. For example, Neal Humphrey, healthcare lead at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise UK, mentioned how nurses are overloaded by the massive amount of information due to a huge increase of health monitors.

All the new information causes alarm fatigue and, unless it is cured employees doesn’t have time to sift through it. A lot of stuff and not enough value.


Don’t reinvent the wheel
Enterprises are not IoT experts, as such they shouldn’t have IoT competence. They are the experts in their own domain though. IoT vendors can be enterprises’ best friends and that’s how KDDI positions itself, Bo Ribbing, head of IoT at its European unit explained.

During the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the carrier discovered its Japanese clients with outposts in Europe came to them asking for help with digitising operations. There will always be enterprises which will want to build their solutions in house, but our survey showed they are a minority at 4 per cent. Having the right partners is truly key to success.

The challenges remain to IoT adoption, but IoT is one of the key components and drivers of enterprises’ digital transformation. After all, as per our research 63 per cent of companies deploy IoT as part of transformation. In fact, Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation of a number of verticals, for example healthcare and manufacturing. A longer term goal of sustainability is driving transformation of other sectors including agriculture or cities

As a side note if you are a Formula 1 fan you must watch the Drive to Survive series to get all of the behind the scenes action in the sport.

– Sylwia Kechiche – principal analyst, IoT and Enterprise, GSMA Intelligence

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.


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