Adoption of M2M/IoT technologies is currently pegged at 22%, while 42% of the rest are expected to have M2M solutions within the next two years
Ever since Alexander Graham Bell set out to build the first telephone, we have strived to achieve connected living. And in the current era, that is what we are achieving in a true sense. Technological advancements in telecommunications, big data analytics, storage and computing infrastructure along with the ever-increasing prominence of social networks in today’s digital world have facilitated the connected living seen today. This elevated connectivity is not limited only between people, but also expands to include people-to-machine communication, and machine-to-machine ones.
Internet of Things
Enabled by contemporaneous advancements in energy-efficient sensors, microcontrollers, and wireless sensor networks, machine-to-machine communications (M2M) formed the building blocks of what came to be known as ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). It primarily focuses on end-user applications by leveraging on the connectivity infrastructure which eventually results in a ‘Smart Everything’ world. A world in which the digital domain seamlessly interconnects with the real world in the form of a connected self (wearable tech), connected homes (smart home and home automation), transportation (smart transport, vehicle telematics), and cities (smart city) thereby, improving the overall quality of our lives.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as a bigger economic impact of ‘Internet of Things’ is felt in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. In these sectors, based on the amplified connectivity and application infrastructure, a profound improvement in efficiency and productivity is noticed which results in huge dollar savings for the enterprise. GE calls it ‘Industrial Internet’ and emphasizes the ‘Power of 1%’ which denotes that even a 1% improvement in efficiency in five industry verticals including oil and gas, power, healthcare, aviation, and rail, could result in a $276 bn saving in 15 years.
Industrial Internet leverages on the power of cloud computing to interconnect machines embedded with sensors and sophisticated software and enables us to extract data, analyze it based on the outcome, elevate our understanding of the process/operation. Industrial products and machines, ranging from the jet engines to gas turbines and from CT scanners to energy meters, each will have the analytical intelligence to self-diagnose and self-correct any problem, thereby, resulting in huge savings by avoiding unscheduled downtime. Industrial Internet thus forms the backbone of the next generation digital industries, also known as Industry 4.0, which aims to create factories of the future, characterized by adaptability and efficiency.
Our experience in the field too points towards the fact that the economic benefit of an IoT solution is realizable within a year or two of the implementation. A few outcomes of IoT implementations include:
- Optimal usage of power network components can be ensured in a utility company by using real-time monitoring and control of geographically distributed smart meters which provides visibility on location-wise power consumption, load survey trends, and billing reports
- Avoiding unscheduled maintenance, reducing maintenance costs, and thereby production loss using a machine health monitoring solution which measures various machine parameters like bearing temperature, oil pressure, thrust position, phase and speed measurement, and other important processing variables.
- Reduced operating cost, and increased machine availability with a cloud based plant monitoring solution, which monitors KPIs like equipment effectiveness, jobs per hour, speed loss, production planning and status monitoring among others.
- 30% energy savings in a Wi-Fi based smart thermostat implementation which has a host of features like outdoor temperature indicator, weather data integration, HVAC control, humidifier/dehumidifier control, and on demand data collection and retention
- Efficiency and productivity improvement in a health care setup can be achieved through cloud based data collection system and monitoring of patient data from sensors in medical devices.
Similar results can be witnessed in plenty of IoT implementations across gamut of industries ranging from industrials, transportation, oil and gas, telecom, and consumer durables. These facts indicate that the era of ‘Rise of the Machines’ has finally arrived. It is therefore imperative for enterprises and services providers to jointly address the challenges in implementation.
The business potential of IoT is equally staggering. Cisco estimates that the number of devices connected to the Internet—things of every conceivable variety—will grow four times to 50 bn by 2020 from the existing 13 bn. This will result in an overall $19 tn worth market opportunity. Gartner estimates that the market for Technology and Services focused on IoT would be more than $300 bn by 2020. This has generated a lot of interest among the investor community in identifying next-gen solutions for IoT use cases. According to CB Insights, IoT companies attracted more than $1 bn in venture capital in 2013 which is a 11% increase from the previous year. Google’s $3.2 bn purchase of Nest Labs, a smart thermostat maker, Jawbone’s $100 mn purchase of BodyMedia, a health and wellness monitoring company, and the recent purchase of SmartThings, a Washington based Home Automation start-up by Samsung shows active interest of Venture Capital firms and Corporate Investors in the IoT space.
Towards Mainstream Adoption…
Internet of Things and Industrial Internet based on cloud computing are not just theories anymore. Customers are increasingly looking at IOT as the means to digitally transform their business. According to the Vodafone M2M Barometer Report 2014 , adoption of M2M/IoT technologies is currently pegged at 22% while, 42% of the rest are expected to have M2M solutions in place within the next two years.
From the companies that have already implemented these technologies, over 66% received positive returns within a year while the number rose to 89% across a two year period. Industries belonging to automotives, energy & utilities, and consumer electronics lead the pack with close to 30% adoption while a projection reveals the number to surpass 60% within the next two years.
Bringing this vision and euphoria around IoT to reality is not without its own set of challenges. The main challenges include identifying the means and ways to communicate effectively and securely between devices, transmitting and storing huge amounts of data, and most importantly safeguarding the sensitivities around end-user privacy in this age of ubiquitous connectivity. These require a collective effort from players in this ecosystem, viz., enterprises, OEMs, software platform vendors, and semiconductor companies who would play a vital role in designing the standards and processes for smooth interconnectivity between different devices in the ecosystem.
Furthermore, the two main stakeholders in the industry, namely enterprises and governments implementing IOT solutions, and technology vendors (OEMs, software platform vendors, and semiconductor companies) designing the technological systems, have their own challenges.
For enterprises looking to minimize the time-to-market new services for their end-customers, the challenge is in choosing between the multitude of (often conflicting) IOT software/solution platforms and designing the application ecosystem around the technology platform
For technology vendors, the challenge is in delivering an outstanding product and digital experience together—combining intelligent hardware, connectivity, and application software—in an affordable manner, by developing right business models to monetize the services.
To overcome these challenges, a solution partner with the right skills and expertise could help enterprises and technology vendors in bringing their IoT vision to reality. Their technological expertise in building reliable and scalable network of connected devices, along with the domain expertise in designing industry specific solutions and applications could facilitate faster adoption of IoT in vertical industries by drastically reducing the time to market new services.
For OEMs and technology vendors, the benefit lies in their ability to scale their solution offering without building the requisite inter-disciplinary capabilities in-house. For enterprises, it is the consulting, solution design, and system integration support in implementing the IoT use cases faster. With collective expertise of their working in multiple industries and technological platforms, solution partners are in an ideal position to facilitate a broader adoption of IoT best practices across industries and accelerate its mainstream adoption.