The Internet of Things hype versus reality for businessesCompanies beginning to realise IoT's huge potential to streamline operations, implementing the influence of this growing global network to both collect and communicate data from anywhere in the world
The IoT hype
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has garnered many column inches of late, as global enterprises look for ways to connect all aspects of their operations, heightening efficiency through the data and insights available.
With more companies now realising the vast versatility and potential of IoT, the rate at which it is being deployed has increased exponentially. A report released by Vodafone last year found that the number of large-scale IoT projects amongst businesses worldwide has doubled over a period of 12 months, demonstrating the huge appetite for its ability to provide widespread connectivity and facilitate secure data communication.
The rapid rate of IoT uptake amongst enterprises looks set to continue, with a market analysis by Zinnov predicting global spending on IoT technology-based products and services by enterprises to reach $253 billion in 2021. However, with IoT increasingly available, its justified hype can leave many organisations susceptible to jumping on the IoT bandwagon, ‘over-implementing’ the technology in an effort to streamline existing operations.
Although IoT affords decision makers in all sectors an opportunity to transform how they manage and monetise services, it is now equally vital that those enterprises are not overwhelmed by the increasing potential of IoT. Instead, they must now think about the critical decisions that need to be made, including selecting the most suitable form of IoT connectivity that will enable intelligent decision-making and help realise the full potential of their connected devices.
Maximising value with IoT
Paramount to any successful implementation of an IoT strategy is an enterprise’s exact understanding of what it is trying to achieve, a process which often begins with deciding what data its connected ‘thing’ will need to communicate. This will ultimately determine what type of device and the level of connectivity that is required, to best execute the desired data processing and communication functionalities.
For many businesses, the exact form of connectivity required is not the first priority. Yet, with so many potential overheads for businesses wanting to deploy these solutions across their networks quickly and successfully, costs can increase rapidly.
Therefore, before businesses choose the level of connectivity required, they must ensure they are paying for what they actually require, instead of what they think is needed, working closely with providers to achieve the best return based on their business requirements. When doing so, multiple factors within an IoT strategy, such as cost, location, international travel, the type of data to be collected and the frequency of which it is communicated are all integral to a business’ selection of a connectivity solution.
For example, different IoT solutions would be utilised for an enterprise solely wanting to enhance internal efficiencies, to one that is looking to introduce new revenue streams for customers.
For the latter, this could be a complete change of business model, wherein the business’ end customers are charged for the insights collected through IoT, instead of paying for the physical, connected piece of hardware they use.
This increasingly common move from a CAPEX to OPEX business model is an example of how organisations should always consider their ultimate objectives, enabling them to cut through the IoT noise, working with solution providers to choose the most efficient form of connectivity and achieve the desired results.
Organisations must also consider the long-term viability of the technology and how this aligns with the factors already considered when IoT devices are initially deployed.
With this in mind, it is also imperative that companies deploying IoT devices for the first time appreciate that the purpose of their device may change, as their business evolves and needs shift. They must, therefore, implement versatile devices, which can alter the logic of collecting data when required, without recalling devices to be manually re-programmed.
If businesses can strategically combine and execute these elements in a way which best suits their business, they will be well-positioned to think more selectively about the technologies they require to create an IoT network which can deliver the most valuable, long-term return on investment.
Creating an intelligently tailored network
With IoT being applied to multiple aspects of a business’ operations, increasingly saturating the existing IoT infrastructure, the need for intelligent decision making has never been more critical.
In order to achieve this, enterprises must look beyond the IoT’s myriad of functionalities, thinking very carefully about how, when and what data needs to be communicated. This can help to create an intelligent network for each business, allowing for scalability if required, without risk of over-implementation.
Opting for a low power wide-area network (LPWAN) that utilises low-bandwidth messaging on the GSM voice network (embedded globally in 2G and LTE networks) can achieve this desired scalability, providing a low cost, low power, flexible solution. Utilising USSD messaging, up to 160 bytes of data can be sent from sensor-based IoT devices, per message.
This suits IIoT deployments perfectly; typically, connected devices on an industrial scale do not need to communicate large payloads of data, maximising the efficiency of the network.
Communicating vital intelligence through tiny data packets is best facilitated through a Message Queue Telemetry Transport for Sensor Networks (MQTT-SN) set-up. This publish/subscribe messaging protocol can send information to and from cloud systems to a sensor and correctly configured, can ensure delivery of messages.
Furthermore, sensor-based IoT devices can be programmed to only send data when certain parameters have been met. This selective approach ensures that the device is switched off when idle.
This on/off setup ensures that device battery life is maximised, providing significant cost savings to enterprises running multiple devices, while further emphasising the need to only communicate absolutely crucial data.
IoT devices using this connectivity can communicate freely when travelling across worldwide networks, even in remote areas with limited connectivity. By automatically connecting IoT applications whenever a GSM connectivity is present, this provides greater stability and lower costs, when compared with a high bandwidth, internet-based connections.
With businesses realising the never-ending capabilities of IoT that will allow them to transform existing models and explore new revenue streams, the need for them to take a strategic approach, analysing how and why they utilise the insights provided, is now more vital than ever.
Enterprises that think about how they can add tangible value, rather than succumbing to the hype, can ensure they are poised for long-term success through deployment of a wide-scale LPWA IoT network.
Sourced by Neil Hamilton, VP of business development at Thingstream