The Internet of Things (IoT) will have a profound impact on how organizations take advantage of connected devices to transform business as we know it. Mobility is enabling IoT as more and more sensors are already in the marketplace for businesses to take advantage of.
IoT will modernise the workforce with a combination of mobile devices, wearable computers, connected devices to help empower people to be more online, informed and collaborative. Businesses will rely on connected devices and big data analytics to optimise processes and make more informed decisions about their marketing and operations strategies.
What is the Internet of Things, or IoT? Industry analysts define IoT as adding network capability to any device, or component of a larger device, so it can transmit data for monitoring and management purposes. Think of IoT as turning something “dumb” like a level fuel gauge in a truck into something smart like a digital fuel gauge which can report back fuel consumption in near real time of even real time. Traditional heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems can be modernised with IoT sensors and mobile devices to provide optimal climate conditions for offices and data centers reducing unnecessary energy consumption. Mobile devices can be used to control HVAC systems from remote locations and receive real-time updates on the performance and maintenance requirements of such systems.
Across Asia mobile carriers are offering more IoT services and in 2014 a group including KT, NTT DoCoMo of Japan, StarHub of Singapore and Hutchison of Hong Kong announced the “IoT Project Group” with representatives from each company collaborating to develop IoT technology, products services and business models. In Singapore IoT and mobile technology is used to monitor some 2 million trees around the city to determine how weather impacts tree pruning activities.
There will be 38 billion Internet-connected devices by 2020, up from 13.4 billion this year
According to IMS Research, there will be about 326 million GSM mobile network machine-to-machine connections in 2016. This is small in comparison to the estimated 2.6 billion smartphone subscriptions globally today, which is forecast to reach 6 billion by 2020. All these smart devices have the capability to join the Internet of Things over Wi-Fi and other wireless protocols, not just the mobile networks.
All together, the number for all IoT devices is huge with Juniper Research estimating there will be some 38 billion Internet-connected devices by 2020, up from 13.4 billion this year. Sure the numbers are high, but what about the use cases? IoT and mobility complement each other in many ways to save costs and increase revenue.
IoT meets mobility
A popular use case for IoT is carried around by most people every day. The average smartphone device is full of sensors which collect information on calls, mobile data, location and acceleration to name a few.
An example mobile IoT use case is using the orientation sensor to detect if a worker has fallen over on a work site. The connected device (the smartphone) can send an alert to the site office (or anywhere in the world) and a safety alarm can be raised.
Businesses can also take advantage of smartphone sensor data for marketing and workforce optimisation. A simple marketing example is a retail store being able to visualise where people spend most of their time browsing based on Bluetooth signals from their smartphones. It can then position specials on the floor in certain areas to maximise the chance of a sale. Then, at the point of sale, networked security tags act like RFID tokens allowing the POS terminal to automatically calculate the total and then charge the customer via the mobile payment app on their smartphone. That’s IoT in action for a consumer. From the vendor’s perspective, networked products can improve the supply chain by providing real-time visibility into which products are selling well at different times and what needs to be ordered to maintain efficient stock levels.
According to an IDC Retail Insights study published in July 2014, consumer demand for convenience, product availability, and personalized and contextualized interactions will drive retailers to adopt multiple IoT technologies. The research firm identified common retail use cases as product tracking, interactive consumer engagement and operations, mobile payments, fleet management and asset management.
Leslie Hand, research director, IDC Retail Insights, said: "Consumer demand for interactive, engaging, and convenient retail experience trump retail hesitance to invest in IoT. IoT technologies have matured, the use cases are well defined, and cloud-based solutions improve return on investment, reducing the barriers to implementation."
It is not just mobile devices at the forefront of IoT. A strategy for future computing must include how wearables can improve existing processes and enable more innovative products and services. More wearable computing devices, with integrated wireless communication, are entering the consumer and business markets. Devices like smartwatches, wristbands, glasses, headsets and even microchips embedded in to clothing are opening up a world of possibilities for the Internet of Things. In the case of our retail example, an NFC microchip embedded in a jacket could be used to pay for an item, bypassing the need to use a smartphone.
There are many use cases for wearables in business and many are quite mature. Military and aviation industries have used smart headsets for many years and wearable safety devices can alert workers of hazards.
It’s not just mobile devices at the forefront of IoT. A strategy for future computing must include how wearables can improve existing processes and enable more innovative products and services.
The mobile-IoT business opportunity
In addition to cost savings, IoT brings the potential for businesses to develop outcomes in new and insightful ways that will positively impact revenue.
The Internet of devices and apps
When we think about the Internet of Things we think about mobile devices and wireless sensors. Devices themselves are just the beginning as the apps on them also play a crucial part of the IoT ecosystem.
For every one device there can be hundreds of apps and each app is capable of connecting with other apps and devices. Apps can be used to trigger other sensors providing a range of process automation options for the modern enterprise. A collection of app data can also can provide business decision makers with valuable information. Mobile browsing data can be correlated with mobile payment trends giving retailers insights into which products are searched for online and sold in store.
How do enterprises make the most of the app opportunity? A new generation of development tools and APIs is emerging to give apps the ability to tap into IoT networks for new levels of business process automation. Location sensors in mobile devices can be integrated with building lighting for greater energy savings and industrial control systems can be displayed in real time for better insight and reporting.
Table 1: The components of IoT and mobility and their properties.
|IoT mobility component|
|Mobile devices||Smartphones have sensors and wireless Internet connectivity to gather insights from any location.|
|Apps||In addition to device sensors, smartphone apps can also generate IoT data for business decision making.|
|Business case||Look at how information generated from mobile devices can improve your operations and generate revenue. There are use cases in every industry – from retail to transport.|
|Wearables||Think about the new wave of wearable computers in addition to smartphones. Wearables are designed to be attached to a person and don’t require holding.|
|Big data analytics||Big data and analytics brings together all the data points generated by IoT devices and apps and makes business sense out of it.|
Big data brings IoT and mobility to life
The Internet of Things sensors, mobile devices and mobile apps have the potential to generate massive numbers of data points every day. To take advantage of this huge influx of data organisations need big data storage, processing and analytics capability to turn raw mobile IoT data into actionable insights for the organisation. Organisations can develop a big data processing capability internally or via a third-party cloud service.
The promise of mobility and IoT is often only realised when the business value is demonstrated. For example, a transport company might be using mobile devices to track deliveries and optimise routes, but only after this is cross checked with fuel consumption data from IoT capabilities in the vehicle will the company be able to determine which trucks in its fleet are least efficient (and, hence, the most costly).
IoT, mobility and big data go hand-in-hand to give enterprises a strategic advantage for business process optimisation and generating new sources of revenue.