For the past 5-10 years, we have been hearing so much about the Internet of Things (IoT). On the surface, IoT can sound a bit confusing. The Internet of Things? What things? And how does the internet play a role in all of this?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the IoT and its potential for enhancing competitive advantage. We’ll also offer advice for companies as they embark on their digital transformation through IoT, including what to look for in a solutions integrator partner.
As more and more devices (things) become internet-enabled – meaning that they can either transmit information, receive information or both via the internet – it becomes clear that we are living in an increasingly connected world. And when it comes to devices, we aren’t just talking about PCs, tablets or smartphones anymore. An IoT device could be your car, smart TV, refrigerator, dishwasher or multiple machines on the factory floor.
The ubiquitous data generated by these devices as they become IoT-enabled or connected must go somewhere and be used by someone for something. The ability to accept, understand and use this data by any business is what we are talking about when we refer to digital transformation. IoT is transforming our world in powerful ways, and companies in many types of industries stand to benefit greatly through improved, data-driven decision-making and accelerated business processes.
“If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things, using data they gathered without any help from us, we would be able to track and count everything and greatly reduce waste, loss, and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing, or recalling and whether they were fresh or past their best.”
– Kevin Ashton, former Executive Director of Auto-ID Labs at MIT
Ashton is often credited as being the first to describe the IoT in a presentation he made for Procter & Gamble in 1999. He was ahead of his time in recognizing the importance of the internet and its eventual ability to connect everything. McKinsey & Company expects there to be more than 43 billion IoT-connected devices by 2023, and that is just the beginning.
Manufacturing, logistics, safety, smart buildings and others are using the IoT at an accelerating rate as indicated by the IoT device market, which is on the rise and poised to reach $1.4 trillion by 2027. IoT technology has gone from a nice-to-have novelty to a necessity for digital transformation and sustainable competitive advantage.
This is IoT
It refers to a broad range of internet-connected devices that can communicate with one another to accumulate data and share it across a network. It is also about how the data is aggregated and correlated to produce insights that drive predictive or prescriptive outcomes. Finally, it should also include the use of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to help drive these insights.
As IoT technology becomes more affordable and easier to access and implement, companies big and small can leverage the right IoT solution to begin their own digital transformation. The more digital and connected a company, the greater its competitive advantage, together with the spoils enjoyed by the first movers in each market. In essence, more data means greater profit potential. Who would be opposed to that?
Why is IoT Important?
IoT makes everyday devices “smart” by enabling them to transmit data and automate tasks without requiring manual intervention. An IoT device could be something as simple as a health-tracking wearable or as complex as the millions of connected sensors that comprise a smart city.
The data collected by these “things” can then be analyzed or processed to offer advantages to the companies that implement them. A few of the benefits and examples of each include:Improved data to drive better decision-making
- Companies can share detailed cost analysis reports in real-time with their finance teams on the other side of the globe to better allocate spending.
- Companies can monitor employees’ temperatures for health and safety with IoT wearables.
- Program a “smart” manufacturing facility to cycle power to machines and turn heat/AC or lighting off/on at designated times to conserve energy.
- Companies never lose sight of products via embedded sensors gathering real-time data from production to transport to warehouse storage and retail stocking, reducing the risk of damaged or stolen goods and improving margins with increased oversight.
- IoT tracks customers’ online browsing habits and combines with data collected by in-store sensors to offer personalized discounts and maximize conversion rates.
- Healthcare providers can deliver instant test results to patients via their cell phones.
These benefits not only help accelerate the digital journey but also empower business growth.
IoT and Digital Transformation Linkage
IoT gives companies a digital link to data. Computing power has increased about 100 times in the past 15 years, unlocking the potential for digital transformation and exponential growth. Digital transformation is all about the data. The easiest way to think about it is this: digital transformation enables companies to use data to directly influence business decisions, processes and growth over traditional, non-digital practices.
But to unlock digital transformation potential, companies must first establish a digital link between their users, customers and their business to collect data – this is where all those connected devices come into play.
Choosing the Right Partner for Your IoT Implementation
Companies need reliable solutions that will connect and secure their infrastructure solutions to capitalize on the benefits of IoT and digital transformation. However, picking the right partner might seem like a daunting challenge for a company that doesn’t specialize in IoT and may have yet to even entertain the notion of digital transformation. This is where a solutions integrator can add significant value. Here are a few qualities and capabilities to look for when choosing a solutions integrator:
- Expertise in implementing IoT solutions
- A pre-qualified staff with the right technical certifications
- Consistent, repeatable, process-driven methodologies
- An IoT development process that starts small then grows rapidly via agile scrum methodology
- Familiarity with the design thinking IoT development process
- Standards that are established and implemented
- Processes and IT disciplines aligned to required standards
- Strong partnerships with multiple vendors to optimize solution choices
- Ability to deliver end-to-end solutions aligned to your business needs
- Global capabilities with local expertise
Building a Foundation for Long-term Success
As companies embark on their digital transformation and look to the IoT future, the potential rewards are great. Companies that can successfully overcome the connectivity challenges that stand in the way of rapid IoT adoption are the ones that will surge ahead of their competition and build a foundation for long-term success. The right solutions integrator partner can make all the difference, bridging the knowledge gap and smoothing the way to comprehensive IoT deployment.
To learn more about WESCO | Anixter’s IoT and digital transformation approach, contact your local WESCO | Anixter account representative.