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10 things about IoT that business needs to know

Key takeaways

  • The Internet of Things is enabling some exciting consumer technologies that augment our lives, but enterprise business shouldn’t let the ‘fun’ distract from the very real business case for IoT adoption.
  • The data provided by connected devices, sensors and the cloud can, with the addition of AI, deliver valuable business insights.
  • IoT projects need to be begin with the goal in mind, not the tech. With planning and the appropriate budgets and resources, they can be safe, cut costs and increase revenue.

It’s great fun imagining the possibilities that the Internet of Things (IoT) will enable in the future. But for business, the time to get serious about implementation is now.

The opportunities IoT promises to unlock in industries ranging from banking, government and HR, to mining, health and real estate, are pretty exciting, and certainly capture the imagination.

But what may not be immediately apparent in looking ahead, is the transformative power of IoT that will affect all businesses, regardless of their industry. With that in mind, here are ten things organisations should know when deciding whether IoT is right for them.

  • The Internet of Things is actually about data, not things. The value of IoT for enterprise is not in its sensors and connected devices, but what these can tell you about your business. Data from connected devices can be used to tell you how your business is going, and help you make quicker, more informed decisions for the future. Many organisations already collect data. However, they need to go further to take advantage of this data including in analytics and artificial intelligence engines, as well as automated or mobile workforce applications. This is vital to convert new information into new decision-making capabilities, enabling new actions.
  • It isn’t all about sensors. There is a common misconception that the Internet of Things just means splaying sensors everywhere. Connecting physical assets is pointless without an overarching view of the business problem to be solved. IoT also involves more than flowing information between devices. While much of the chatter around the concept focuses on sensors, its solutions also include business machines – from fleets to phones, printers to bulldozers, and increasingly, the ability to monitor employees themselves for safety and productivity.
  • IoT is a business imperative, not a technology gimmick. Consumer ‘things’ tend to be fun, but that doesn’t mean that business should ignore IoT opportunities. When considering what the technology could be used for your business, don’t think about the things that could be connected, think about the goals you want to accomplish and data that would help you achieve those ambitions.
  • AI and IoT go hand in hand. As dumb machines become smart with the addition of sensors, connectivity and robotics, the volume of data is going to grow exponentially – and with it, the need for AI to interpret it. Businesses will need to be fluent in both technologies. In the 2017 PwC Digital IQ Survey, 73% of executives said that they were making substantial investments in IoT and 54% in artificial intelligence.
  • IoT can cut costs.. and increase profit. Real-time data information about business operations will allow organisations to make smarter decisions. According to Vodafone’s IoT Barometer 2017/18,  29% of IoT adopters are finding cost reductions of more than 20%.1 Combined with the additional findings that over half of respondents say IoT is increasing or generating revenue streams and 36% of adopters see their revene grow by more than 20% there’s a lot of money on the table directly attributable to IoT ventures.
  • IoT is about more than efficiency. While it is often used primarily to improve efficiencies and cut costs, there are many other benefits that Internet of Things implementation can bring. These include better business insight, improved employee productivity, enhanced customer/user experience, competitiveness in the market, sustainability, and many more.
  • IoT projects are not easy. 75% of IoT projects fail according to research by Cisco.2 Why? There’s a variety of factors, but a lot of them come down to poor planning in the initial stages. Businesses who start with the technology, rather than the end goal, often end up spending too much time, and too much money. IoT should be thought of as a whole of business transformation not an IT project, and implemented with the appropriate level of budget, governance, talent and advice.
  • IoT security is not foolproof, so early planning is a must to manage risk. While there’s no question that the increasing amount of devices connected to the internet and the sheer number of surfaces open to attack mean IoT could be a security nightmare. The latest PwC Global State of Information Security Survey 2018, found that companies are revamping their security policies and a key investment areas when it comes to IoT is in data governance and protecting consumer privacy. Businesses need to be proactive and develop cybersecurity and privacy procedures into their IoT projects from day 1 – not tack it on at the end.3 While risk is never nullified, proactive cybersecurity and privacy programs will help manage future risk.
  • A Proof of Concept is desirable, but it depends on your industry. Whether or not you need a proof of concept, a simple business case or should just dive on in to implementation depends on where your company and industry as a whole sits when it comes to IoT maturity. Ultimately, whether a proof of concept will be right for you will depend on the resources available, including money and talent, the clarity of your vision, readiness of your business culture, and the robustness of the related products, services and talent available in your industry.

The business case for implementing IoT projects in organisations is almost undeniable. The more data a company has access to, when coupled with the ability to gain insight from it, the better their decision making can be. But simply setting up sensors on every available surface will not lead to success.

IoT projects are complex and need to be tackled with the gravitas any transformation effort deserves. When approached intelligently, however, business has a much greater chance at enjoying the benefits such change can bring. This means starting with the desired outcome or problem to solve and working backward to the technology, not getting caught up in the buzz of new tech.

That’s not to suggest that the road to implementation will be completely smooth but is likely be scattered with failed hypotheses that businesses can learn from. By keeping in mind the challenges and clearing a line of sight through the forest of potential confusion, organisations can realise new capabilities and ways of doing business, and be empowered through information and insights that the data from your connected things will bring.

Does your business have the right people and possibility to safely unlock this potential, and are you ready? Take my hand, second star to the right, and all the way ‘til morning!


Brent Gimpel

Brent is a director who works with clients to enable change through better strategy, portfolio, and program delivery in the Transformation Assurance practice at PwC Australia., PwC Australia