Internet of Things: It’s not just for IT managers

Sponsored By: Rogers

While it will likely be the IT organization that drives the implementation of the Internet of Things within a company, it will be line of business users from marketing to sales that truly reap the benefits.

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It will be up to the IT department to lay the groundwork for the Internet of Things – everything from building the network to connect and take in sensor data from all those devices to ensuring the devices and the data they generate is secure and is managed in compliance with regulatory and privacy requirements. However, it’s the applications that will draw on that connected network of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and what it will enable, that is catching the eyes of line of business leaders.

While the term IoT may be new –in fact the concept should be familiar to most business users, as a recent Harvard Business Review report noted – companies have actually been doing this sort of thing for years.

“Companies have been using sensors and networks to provide a steady stream of information about where devices are, how they’re being used, their condition, and the state of their environment for more than 20 years,” noted the report. “What’s helping to bring it to the forefront today is the explosive growth in mobile devices and applications and the broad availability of wireless connectivity.”

Factor in the emergence of the cloud as a cheap and accessible way to store and process all the data those devices generate, along with the growing adoption of advanced analytics technology to extract actionable intelligence from that data more quickly and cost-effectively than ever, and it’s clear why IoT is now set to transform the business.

A study last year by IDC Canada projects the number of smart connected devices in Canada to grow from 28 million in 2013 to some 114 million by 2018, and according to the report departmental silos are being broken down and IT is collaborating with the line of business on IoT projects. Business leaders are increasingly playing a role in technology selection, and in 2014 some 24 per cent of IoT platforms in Canada were managed by external providers.

It’s also interesting to note that just 13 per cent of organizations said they were using the same provider for devices, connectivity, the software platform and data analysis. It’s a sign that businesses using IoT are either spreading their risk across multiple providers, or that they haven’t yet found a single provider that can meet their needs across the entire IoT value stack.

More holistic IoT solution providers could come with the IoT market in Canada poised for growth. In 2014, 13 per cent of Canadian medium and large-sized organizations had already adopted IoT, with 30 per cent more planning to do so within the next 24 months. Spending on IoT is poised to jump from $5.6 million to $21 billion by 2018, and at the moment straight-forward IoT solutions around asset tracking and security monitoring are leading the way.

Further research from IDC Canada this year looked at the addressable market in Canada for IoT, looking at the potential for growth within 36 specific use cases across 11 key vertical industries. It found that the fastest-growing industry sectors for IoT in Canada are consumer, manufacturing and insurance, as well as health care and transportation.

“Over the next 10 years, the IoT market will see significant vertical-focused growth,” said Nigel Wallis, IDC Canada’s research director for IoT and vertical markets. “2015 is when the IoT market will really take off in Canada. IDC forecasts that growth in IoT revenue will be very high but will still be linear.”

While IoT in Canada is poised for line of business-fuelled growth, Wallis cautioned security and privacy, cost, the need for customization and traditional Canadian conservatism toward new technologies are possible inhibiting factors.

For businesses that have already made the lead into IoT, the benefits are proving to be tangible. A Harvard Business Review of early IoT adopters identified enhanced customer service as the top IoT benefit and adoption driver, followed by increased revenue from products and services, improved use of assets in the field and acquiring more information to support big data and analytics efforts. Common deployment scenarios have included asset tracking, security, fleet management, field force management, energy data management, and condition-based monitoring.

The report notes though that IoT isn’t just about saving money and or remotely managing assets and employees – early IoT adopters reported it can also change business models by allowing a company to offer new services. For example, by being able to monitor how your product is performing in a customer environment, you could add predictive maintenance to your service offerings.

“When you’re able to connect products and understand what’s happening with them, you can gather insight into how customers are using them and when they need to be maintained,” Michele Pelino, principal analyst at Forrester Research, told the Harvard Business Review. “One of the big changes we’ll see is product-focused companies transforming into service-focused organizations.”

It’s important to remember though that customers need to see value in their decision to share data with your company. Curtis Hutcheon, executive director and vice-president of Dell Security, said live interaction and immediate access to information is going to be the primary benefit of IoT.

“It’s going to build a tremendous about of information for people to learn about their product and their customers,” said Hutcheson. “At Dell, we know so much about what our customers are doing with firewalls because we communicate with over 500,000 of them every day that helps us protect them better. They share data back to us so there needs to be a lot of value for the customer.”

Another benefit of IoT for the line of business will be delivering deeper insight into how customers are using their products, and get a more complete picture than they could before. Machine to machine solutions, the forerunner to IoT, were generally standalone seniors gathering information for one application, such as fleet management. Now, companies can marry that fleet management data with other data to improve employee safety or analyze traffic patterns. The value in applying the greater data sources against an advanced analytics engine, say analysts, is in being able to identify patterns and opportunities in interlocking data that just couldn’t be seen before.

Getting there involves a lot of moving pieces, and it will require the IT team and line of business leaders working hand in hand to ensure the technology foundation is in place, that the right data is being gathered, and that the right analytics is being run against it to get the insight that will drive business value. And the time to start is now.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Sponsored By: Rogers

Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.