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IoT is about transforming, not optimising

By John Oates

More than half of Internet of Things projects have met or exceeded their goals even though most are sticking to improving company efficiencies rather than being used to transform business processes. according to a recent survey.


The figures come from a survey of 350 directors and C-level staff by a leading IoT conference organiser and sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise.


Researchers found that 63 per cent of respondents cited ‘increase efficiency’ as the primary business goal of the IoT project, ‘increase flexibility’ was mentioned by 48 per cent. This compares with far lower figures for transformative goals: 34 per cent mentioned establishing new business models, 27 per cent said they wanted to improve marketing and product development. Only 25 per cent said they wanted IoT to help them shift from product sales to an ‘as-a-services’ business model.


For the 47 per cent of companies which failed to meet IoT goals two reasons stood out: company culture and a shortage of skills were both mentioned by 38 per cent of those surveyed.

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This shows the importance of getting the whole company behind IoT projects in order to have the greatest chance of success.


Another serious issue mentioned by 36 per cent of people was that a lack of standards and interoperability is continuing to be a barrier to project success. Many IoT experts complain that problems with standards can seriously slow down integrating sensor networks with each other and with data analysis systems.


The issue of standards is underlined by skills which companies say they need – 45 per cent said they needed staff with the ability to design new common architectures for information technology and operations technology. Software development was another often requested skill suggesting a serious gap in applications which can bring together IT and OT.


Edge computing, where computing and analysis is carried out near where data is gathered, not in a central data centre, is continuing to grow in importance but there’s still progress to be made.


About 30 per cent of sensor data is currently analysed ‘at the edge’, the rest goes to a traditional data centre which creates issues of latency and bandwidth for the network. But looking forward those surveyed expected more than 70 per cent of sensor data would stay at the edge within five years.


But if we look five years ahead, these numbers will change significantly, the ratios will be turned on their heads, with the majority of companies planning to analyse 30% to 70%, or even more than 70% of the sensor data at the edge and in the cloud. The top three reasons for using edge computing were security, latency and bandwidth.


Of course not all analysis will happen on the shop or factory floor. As part of a hybrid infrastructure cloud services will play an important role in turning data into knowledge and business intelligence. The top three reasons for using cloud-based services mentioned in the survey were: correlation analysis at 66%, deep learning at 51% and finally horizontal integration cited by 36% of businesses.


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