Why isn’t IoT the ubiquitous technology we once expected to see?

When the Internet of Things (IoT) arrived over a decade ago, it came with the hope and promise of revolutionising our lives by connecting everything to the internet, making our lives easier and automating away simple tasks

However, fast forward ten years and we haven’t really seen the progress that was originally promised. Wearables and specifically watches have gained traction, but IoT’s wider impact on other areas of our lives simply hasn’t kept pace.  

Furthermore, businesses simply aren’t exploiting the benefits of IoT. Research suggests that 75% of IoT projects fail meaning too many companies are failing to capitalise on its potential. Despite this, 47% of organisations plan to increase their investments in the Internet of Things (IoT) which suggests the ambition to harness IoT is there, but not the execution.  

The business benefits of harnessing IoT data are well documented, in terms of driving process efficiencies, reducing costs and increasing analytical insights across a business. So why do most IoT projects never get past the research and development stage? There are a myriad of reasons IoT is difficult to get to grips with, which is a reflection on the technology’s maturity and the time it has taken for infrastructure and manufacturing to catch up, however the three primary reasons businesses struggle with IoT technology are scale, integration and focused business outcomes. 

Managing IoT sensors at scale 

Companies often struggle to manage sensors in an IoT network on a large scale. IoT technologies can be expensive and often demand high levels of maintenance. It’s also a deployed technology, unlike say managing a website, which makes it much harder to fix mistakes and detect when problems are occurring from day-to-day. In most scenarios, IoT technology only becomes efficient at scale, but reaching this point can be complex without the right approach.  

The secret to successfully utilising a large number of sensors is asset management. This enables organisations to manage their sensor domain at scale, empowering them to understand an aerial and detailed view of what is happening to their devices. It also provides a high level of autonomy as it can automate actions when sensors are non-responsive or faulty, such as only having intermittent signal. 

Managing IoT sensors at scale is also crucial for data security, especially given the substantial amount of data generated on IoT devices. Asset management provides regular IoT security assessments which are necessary to equip an IoT platform with the most robust security protocols. It supports rolling out security updates routinely with little to no down time and without site visits.  

Implementing successful IoT integration 

The next piece in the IoT puzzle is integration. IoT initiatives are completely ineffective if the IoT sensors aren’t integrated with the systems with which they were designed to correspond. For example, if an electronics company rolls out IoT sensors in their washing machines to detect defects in an effort to reduce maintenance costs, they must integrate these sensors with their CRM or repairs systems. Otherwise, whenever the sensors detect a problem then the repairs department will be met with an email or SMS message flagging the initial problem.  

Without integration into the repairs system, each and every email requires manual management and human intervention, which can be a cumbersome process. This is simply unmanageable for a company harnessing IoT technologies on a large scale.  

Successful IoT integrations have messaging infrastructure built with the integration as a first priority and not as an afterthought. This means the stream of telemetrics, warnings and alerts are tunnelled through an enterprise service bus, then each area of the business has the ability to take advantage of the signal and to create actions and insights that truly benefit their customers and business. The successful implantation of IoT integration will help employees deliver seamless experiences for customers and free up their time in order to focus on other innovation initiatives. 

Aligning with business outcomes 

Delivering successful IoT projects is not just a question of harnessing data or technology. It must also align with the wider business objectives in order to truly add value to a company. IT teams, across all sectors, have historically purchased IoT technologies and attempted to utilise them by making instinctive decisions about what they hope to achieve from the data. 

This approach can end with a technically successful IoT programme, however upon reflection, it will not provide a huge amount of benefit to the business and ultimately the project will not get beyond the initial stages of development. As with all technology projects, a business outcome mapping exercise will help the project deliver value from the start. Ultimately these exercises will still point to opportunities where IoT delivers value. Even if this process is done as a validation exercise, while this may ultimately suffer from solution bias, it still has inherent value. 

Return on investment 

If we want to see the true potential and promise of IoT technology then companies must start executing their projects with the correct approach from the outset. The need for technology that allows for remote management has naturally grown in the past year, so has its imperative to get it right going forward.  

By deploying effective asset management, implementing successful integration and aligning their projects with their company objectives, companies will truly see IoT value. With global IoT spending set to continue rising, it’s never been more important for companies to make the most of their investments and deliver an IoT project fit for purpose.   

About the Author

Ian Cowley is Principal Data Engineer at Amido. Amido is the cloud-native consultancy for better business outcomes. We help our clients design, build and run cloud solutions that are resilient at scale, innovative and deliver meaningful customer experiences. We do this while minimising business-risk and build-cost. Amido is an Ensono company.

Featured image: ©Naka