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February 4, 2015

What top CEOs think about the Internet of Things

CEOs around the world share their insights on the key opportunities and challenges in the IoT market.

By Amy-Jo Crowley

The possibilities for the Internet of Things (IoT) in every sector are limitless with more efficient factories for manufacturers and improved customer loyalty for retailers. But have you thought about what opportunities are on the mind for leading CEO?

Accenture and the Economist Intelligence Unit recently surveyed 1,400 C-suite decision makers, half of whom are CEOs, to identify and rank the key opportunities and challenges they face today.

Long-term revenue growth

The survey found that 57% of respondents expect the IoT to drive long-term revenue growth, as 61% cited digital initiatives as a tool for growth.

However, when asked about investment and strategy plans to deliver on these expectations, most companies are sitting on the fence. Just 7% have developed a comprehensive strategy and committed investments accordingly, while 73% have yet to make any concrete investments. Another 20% have begun investing in some selected areas of their business.

Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL, a New York-based media technology company, says companies will need to build capacity to capitalise on the opportunities.

"The strategic direction of where technology is going is clear," he said. "What’s going to be the next forcing function is whether companies have the capability to take advantage of that."

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Growth in jobs and wages

CEOs expect IoT to be a huge creator of jobs in the future. The survey found that 87% of respondents expect the IoT to deliver long-term job opportunities within their organisation, while the remaining 13% believe it will result in the destruction of jobs.

Another 48% believe that IoT will generate long-term growth in real wages, while 52% believe it will reduce real wages.

When asked about the IoT advantages within their own organisations, 46% cited a more productive workforce and asset optimization, while 44% cited reduced operational expenses and 42% said enhanced worker safety.

Peder Holk Nielsen, CEO of Novozymes, a biotechnology company based in Denmark, said: "Integration with customers is expanding rapidly as digital moves so fast across the business — from inventory controls to servicing in the plant through online monitoring.

"It doesn’t change the business model but it means we can help customers better and faster."

The struggle to grasp IoT

While more than 96% of respondents believe their senior leaders have at least some level of understanding of the IoT, only 38% say they "fully" understand it, while 57% say it is "somewhat" understood.

No concerns about skills gap

CEOs do not appear overly concerned about the lack of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills, with only 18% of respondents citing this as an obstacle. This rises to 28% in Latin America and 42% among Middle-Eastern respondents.

Other challenges

CEOs also identified a range of other obstacles, with 44% citing weak information, telecommunications infrastructure and access to capital as the biggest constraints, followed closely by poor access to technology and lack of customer demand.




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