There’s a lot at stake—$19 trillion in fact—as companies transform into digital businesses to capture value from the Internet of Everything (IoE). More than 42 percent of this value, or $8 trillion, will come from one of IoE’s chief enablers, the Internet of Things (IoT). While IoE is the networked connection of people, process, data, and things, IoT is the intelligent connectivity of physical devices that is driving massive gains in efficiency, business growth, and quality of life. So why worry about IoT when we have IoE? Simple, IoT often represents the quickest path to IoE and the $19 trillion that’s there for the taking.
Cisco Consulting Services recently conducted a blind global survey to learn more about how organizations are harnessing IoT to transform their businesses — and what they can do to drive more value. The survey’s 1230 respondents represented 16 countries, seven IoT-intensive industries, and both IT and line-of-business / operational technology (OT) executives.
Innovation Imperative Spurs IoT Adoption
Perhaps more than at any time in history, private and public sector organizations face intense pressure to innovate faster. Not surprisingly, our survey respondents named “faster product or service innovation” as the No. 1 business driver for IoT — with “increased level of globalization” and “demand for better customer experiences” the next two highest-rated business drivers.
The increased demands for faster innovation, globalization, and better customer experiences have a downstream impact on operational complexity. In fact, our respondents cited complexity in the supply chain, among physical assets, and in production processes are the top three operational drivers of IoT.
To address these and other challenges, organizations are looking to IoT — in a big way. Our study revealed that IoT is already well-established across industries. For example, respondents indicating they were “somewhat” or “very” aware of IoT ranged from a high of 92 percent in the utilities industry to 70 percent in public sector. In addition, the percentage of respondents expecting their IoT investments to grow “somewhat” or “significantly” over the next three years ranged from a high of 91 percent for the oil & gas industry to 76 percent for public sector.
IoT Is More About Data than Connecting Things
The sheer size and variety of data traversing today’s networks (much of it generated by IoT) are increasing exponentially — and many organizations are struggling to deal with it. In fact, according to IDC, less than 1 percent of the world’s data is currently being analyzed. What good is data if you can’t capture insights from it?
Our survey respondents grasp the importance of taming the data torrent. When we asked them which area (people, process, data, or things) they needed to improve most to make effective use of IoT solutions, the largest number (40 percent) indicated “data,” while “process” (27 percent) ranked second. “People” placed third (20 percent) and “things” finished last (13 percent).
These leaders understand that connecting “things” is but a means to an end. The primary value that IoT creates is a direct result of the data captured from connected things — and the resulting insights that drive business and operational transformation. To capitalize on the wide range of data IoT generates, organizations must overcome three key challenges identified by our survey respondents:
• Integrating data from multiple sources
• Automating the collection of data
• Analyzing data to effectively identify actionable insights
Only by addressing all three can organizations turn raw data into information and actionable insights.
In particular, “automation” involves getting the data to the right place at the right time so it can be analyzed. This includes assessing the data to determine whether it needs to be moved or analyzed where it is, at the “edge” of the network (“moving the analytics to the data”). IoT value comes from the combination of edge computing and the “center” (data center or cloud), not one or the other. It’s critical to have a connected infrastructure that enables insight from the data center to the edge. Our survey respondents seem to understand this: 37 percent indicated that within the next three years, they expect most of their IoT data will be processed at the edge.
Whether it is in the cloud or at the edge, IoT data must be analyzed to identify actionable insights that can be used to create better outcomes. Without this critical step, data remains just “data.” Our survey respondents clearly understand the potential of analytics to drive critical business outcomes. When we asked which technology developments are the most important enablers of IoT use, “better, more powerful analytical tools” was their No. 1 choice.
IoT Creates Sizable Process Improvement Opportunity
Analytics-driven insights will drive the opportunity for process change and optimization. In many cases, these insights will foster transformative rather than incremental changes in business and operational processes. For example, our survey respondents indicated that IoT has the potential to fully automate up to 50 percent of their existing manual operational processes.
While IoT presents tremendous opportunities for process improvement, many organizations lack the agility to capitalize on these improvements. Our survey respondents agree. When we asked them to identify the biggest challenges to effective use of IoT, “Difficulty of updating the organization’s business processes for new IoT solutions” topped the list. As a result, it’s not surprising that respondents indicated that the area in which they need the most assistance from third-party vendors is strategic planning for IoT solutions (cited by 37 percent of respondents). Implementation was the No. 2-ranked area of need (30 percent).
Our study makes one thing especially clear: winners will be those who derive the most value (i.e., actionable insights) from their IoT connections — not those who merely connect the most devices.
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