The Internet of Things (IoT) has certainly come a long way since it was first coined, purely as a concept, by Kevin Ashton in 1999 during his time working with Procter&Gamble. Ashton, who was working in supply chain optimisation at the time, hoped to draw senior management’s attention to a new tech called RFID.
Since then, IoT has crept into various aspects of our lives, from voice assistants to smartwatches, and they are shaping the way we work, talk, and engage with each other. In 2021, it’s clear that is here to stay, with countless practical use cases around the world.
There are thought to be 35.82 billion IoT devices installed worldwide and a markets&markets report has suggested that this will rise to 75.44 billion devices by 2025.
The IoT Tech Expo 2021, hosted in London this week, explored the latest challenges, opportunities and innovations within IoT and examined the impact it’s having across all sectors.
Some of the most compelling discussions surrounded smart energy, the challenges of creating IoT tech that genuinely helps your business, measuring success and how IoT can be integrated into a digital transformation strategy.
Smart energy challenges
Speaking at the event, Nathan Pierce, programme director for Sharing Cities, Greater London Authority, said: “We need to retrofit all buildings. In most cases, it’s costly, but also a huge technical challenge as well, because some buildings are relatively easy to retrofit but some are fiendishly difficult to retrofit.
“Then you’re getting into the area of complications around retrofitting public buildings, private buildings, or as we have across London and across the UK, mixtures of publicly and privately owned buildings.
“So, for me, smart energy inside of that kind of ecosystem, there are things that people can be doing individually. But an important thing is the Green New Deal, which is a big government policy push as part of a recovery strategy following COVID.
“It’s looking at how we can retrofit our older buildings to make them more energy efficient using smart technology, sensors and data. Changing windows and insulating buildings will have a massive impact, but the digital smart controls and IoT platforms can add an extra 10-15% energy reduction.”
Improving efficiency with IoT
Harry Tayler, European manufacturing & supply chain lead, Palantir, commented: “As an organisation, ask yourself ‘what decisions am I making by the thousands each year, but maybe a little bit suboptimal, a little bit inefficient? And what would the impact be on my bottom line, and the KPIs that I care about, if I was to improve those decisions by small amounts going forward?’
“Then ask yourself how IoT could help with that instead. And that might be starting with something quite small. That could be a root cause analysis of something in your supply chain or your logistics operations. It could be something constantly present, like increasing the productivity of the production line, a piece of industrial equipment. Whatever it is, whatever you decide to tackle first, it needs to throw off an immediate and measurable impact or KPI that you really care about, preferably income.
“You need to do that in order for your more medium term digital transformation journey, that I’m sure many of you are on, to stand a chance of succeeding in what today is a very constrained environment. And that really is our challenge to work through with our customers. How do you get IoT working for you today?”
Bringing IoT into the digital transformation journey
Richard Allbert, former head of digital innovation, Pirelli Deutschland, said: “To get started you should really just start small. Find an expert company and get them on board. This can save you time in adding value.
“I think there’s a huge amount of progress to be made in this regard. There are some huge companies and it’s always the same. They build these huge systems. Recently Microsoft developed a map of the world and it looks nice but really what are you going to do with it? It took them six months to develop. What’s it bringing? You can’t measure the benefit of it.
“So I would say start small. And for the supplier and the customer it has the potential to become something much faster, very, very big and very valuable.”
Sylwia Kechiche, principal analyst, IoT, GSMA Intelligence, said: “The way enterprises measure IT success is that 60% say through revenue generation and 65% cost savings. And that second one is down compared to last year. Then 50% of organisations say compliance.
“So it’s these three in fairly equal measure. But, the bottom line is, we don’t know whether or not they’re actually measuring this.”