BARCELONA: Enterprises need to set out a clear Internet of Things (IoT) strategy before they leap into a technology trend set to hit 21 billion units in 2020.
At the Gartner Symposium 2015, Jim Tully (pictured), vice president and IoT specialist at the analyst house, said companies need to have clear business use cases and dedicated specialist teams in place before they venture into the IoT arena.
"Recommendations we tend to make are that it's important to put together a team of people; a multi-disciplinary team made up of different people from different departments. If it's a manufacturing company you want someone from manufacturing, someone from resources, somebody from accounting," he said.
"Not a big team, maybe six people, who are then tasked with identifying how the organisation can use IoT. Now they may reach out to get advice from outside companies, they [may] look at what other organisations are doing; they should look at totally different industries to get ideas from them as well, to eventually form a view of the different ways in which IoT could be used."
He said such discussions should involve the whole organisation, otherwise departments could go off and set up their own IoT systems that are not compatible with others in the enterprise.
"Having gone through that kind of a process it's necessary then to start to form a strategy for the purpose of the IoT," Tully said.
"[IoT] tends to be used for two fundamentally different purposes. One is some kind of internal streamlining, efficiency and cost-saving set of reasons. Then there is another fundamental set of reasons which is to do with external-facing, customer-facing, revenue-generating purposes."
Giving examples of how IoT can be exploited, he explained how smart capabilities could be embedded into products to generate data that can then be used to deliver additional services.
He described how one company is putting sensors into house bricks that feed back vibration, temperature and gradient readings that can be used to tell if there is something wrong with a wall. This would then allow the company supplying the brick to offer value-adding services such as building surveying.
Growing pains and patterns
Tully's briefing followed the announcement of new forecast data from Gartner that predicts massive growth in the IoT world, with a hefty $482bn being spent on IoT services in 2020.
Now this growth and value is by no means unexpected, given the chatter of both the IT and consumer technology world around IoT.
Tully highlighted there are still too few examples of IoT being used to drive real business benefits, too many confusing and disparate technology standards, and a shortage of technical skills to work with the IoT, all of which discourages adoption and deployment.
"But they are being overcome gradually and in some cases ignored, as the whole momentum of IoT moves forward, taking us into this future scenario where we see IoT as being a key enabler of digital business transformation, generating tremendous value," he said.
Gartner's research suggests the consumer market will account for the bulk of IoT sales while the enterprise market will see more niche - but potentially highly lucrative - applications such as sensors to detect leaks in oil storage.
"You'll tend to find most of the ‘things' are in the consumer hands, most of the revenue opportunities are related to enterprises," he said.
The research also points towards a future where the IoT matures from being low cost technology and platforms that improve enterprise efficiency and revenue streams, into a usable ecosystem that enables businesses tap into it to become more digital and adopt service-centric models.
A significant part of this will also involve making use of the big data extracted from IoT networks, which Gartner said will need enterprises to create and consume algorithms to drive real benefits from it.
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