John is an executive at a company that has begun its Internet of things (IoT) journey to build a system to capture data they believe will help transform their business and their customers’ experience. He and his team see it as central to their company’s digital strategy.
He soon finds frustration in trying to determine
the most efficient and cost-effective approaches to connecting and managing
thousands of devices. So many vendors, so many options. And since his system
will rely on cellular technology because of its ubiquity, it can be challenging
trying to evaluate the best approach for provisioning and managing those
devices while having the flexibility to work with multiple telecom providers in
John is a composite based on our
experiences with technologists around the world eager to build IoT solutions.
But those technologists are united by a simple goal: Wanting a unified solution
that delivers a holistic view of his IoT network that allows him to control
costs and manage his technology seamlessly.
The ranks of such technologists have
swelled greatly in recent years, as more and more people see the tipping point
for IoT has arrived. The percentage of global companies that have begun early
implementations of IoT project has soared in the past three years, according to
a recent Economist
Intelligence Unit survey. More than one in three respondents indicate
they’re in early implementation, which is more than double the rate in a
similar Economist IoT survey in 2017. More than 20 percent said they’re launched
extensive implementations, which is nearly four times the 2017 response.
Two thirds said that IoT is one of the most
important parts of their organization’s digital strategy. Investment is increasing across the board,
comparing the 2020 Economist survey to a similar one the organization conducted
in 2017. More than 10 percent have actually doubled their investment in that
time period, according to the report. Clearly stoking this increased investment
is real-world experience: Nearly 60 percent said their return-on-investment has
exceeded their expectations.
Expectations of increased revenues thanks to IoT are high as well. In North America and Europe 46 percent and 42 percent, respectively, of respondents to an April 2020 Forrester study (“Raising awareness around IoT strategy, a Mobile Network Operators perspective on approaches and challenges”) said they believe their IoT projects will generate “significant” revenue increases.
This is the upside John and his colleagues see
in IoT. But they’re still confronting challenges, internally and externally.
The Economist Business Unit study shows
that only 16 percent of respondents strongly agree that their use of IoT data
was informed by a larger data strategy. This is a significant finding given the
fact that data is what the IoT is all about: capturing new and more robust data
to build business intelligence to transform companies.
Security concerns have slowed IoT adoption.
Nearly half the respondents believe that security and privacy concerns have
cooled consumers to IoT technologies, and 37 percent agreed that security
concerns mean their companies have no intention of pursuing an IoT strategy. Additionally,
nearly half the respondents in the Economist report said their IoT progress is slower than expected.
The Forrester report also suggests crossed
signals in the industry. Carriers, for example, may not have a clear
understanding of what their customer stakeholders are striving for in their IoT
projects, as they may deal with multiple enterprise stakeholders. Additionally,
technology can be over-emphasized to the detriment of understanding a potential
customer’s real objectives and requirements.
Despite the challenges, adoption is picking
up steam. That is partly due to the fact that IoT initiatives have been “simmering”
on the IT agenda for a long period of time, which indicates stakeholders are
preparing to bring IoT to the fore, according to a 2019
study from Forrester Research.
IoT strategies are now being treated as a
core part of companies’ digital transformations.
According to Forrester, that’s largely
- Connected assets generate data
that’s crucial for enterprise transformation
- IT managers see IoT as a global
platform for connected devices in which a connection can evolve over time
thanks to updates, etc.
- Companies that are enjoying the
successes of internal IoT buildouts are beginning to turn those IoT offerings
into products for their external customers.
Success hinges on connectivity
Underpinning any successful IoT rollout is a
sound connectivity strategy. After all, an IoT endpoint device is only as good as
the data it captures and transmits. IoT connectivity environments differ
markedly (WiFi, cellular, NB-IoT, etc.), and often systems have multiple
communications protocols involved. Managing this has been a complex task, in
large part due to the use of legacy SIM technology, which can lock in users to
one vendor and require considerable manual effort when either switching vendors
or trying to update connectivity functions.
Some users have expressed frustration
- Poor connectivity or lack of signal in certain locations.
- Poor customer experience, inconsistent billing practices and inability to deliver on promises.
- Difficult-to-manage, manual processes for maintaining and extracting data from SIM cards.
These are some of the challenges that today’s
IoT developers find themselves confronting. To some, it can be a daunting
landscape to enter. However, analysts from Forrester have waded in to present their
views in a new
Forrester report that lays out the challenges and possible solutions in
examining the total economic impact of Arm Pelion IoT Connectivity Management. It
lays bare some of the challenges that organizations have experienced with
legacy approaches to connectivity management.
For example, a project manager in the
transportation industry described how his team had to update equipment
information versions for onboard equipment by visiting each vehicle with a USB
stick to transfer all the necessary files.
Time lag was a concern as well. Many
organizations had no central view of their deployed SIM cards, so problems would
be discovered only during monthly system audits, or if reported by a customer.
The customer support component was challenging as well for many. One project manager surveyed for the Forrester report said of a previous vendor, “They didn’t deliver on what was promised in the sense that we were expecting to have a limit for data usage on the SIMs that was actively managed — and it wasn’t — and it led to severe overages and penalty charges, which they did not deal with particularly well. And on top of that, the overages were not even calculated properly.”
How to make it work for you
The good news in this mixture of extraordinary potential and often-confusing choices is that there are straightforward steps to success.
First off, recognize the complexity but
don’t be overwhelmed by it. There are holistic solutions that can speed and
smooth your IoT journey.
Second, think in tandem about the
fundamental importance of data in the IoT equation and apply that to your
customer objectives. Don’t get wrapped around the technology axle in this
For example, the head of IoT ecosystems,
partnerships, and alliances, for an Italian mobile network operator, told
Forrester their old way of approaching IoT for their customers was to create
certain products that they then marketed to customers. But they’ve since
pivoted to a model in which customer outcomes inform their product and solution
“Our customers tell us the outcome they are
looking for and challenges they experience, and we will create solutions based
on their feedback,” the executive said.
Lastly, IoT can’t scale without a
platform-based approach. The Forrester Total Economic Impact study around the Arm
Pelion IoT Platform indicates significant savings by embracing a turn-key,
secure-by-design device connectivity and management approach to IoT projects.
The report quantified savings benefits
running over $400,000 during a three-year period, with the adoption of Pelion. This
- Reduced number of required site
visits since organizations were no longer required to replace SIM cards when
switching carriers and remote troubleshooting was simple.
- A single view of the entire SIM
deployment reduced management effort by 40%, allowing organizations to more
easily monitor and maintain their SIM networks without the need for onsite
Additionally, there were unquantified
benefits cited in the study, including the technical expertise Arm brings to
the table when working with customers that have unique requirements, as well as
improved customer experience thanks to much better uptime.
Start the journey
It’s clear that in the evolution of IoT,
the tipping point has arrived as companies understand how they can leverage the
technology to transform their digital strategy and leverage new sources of
data. Up to now, that enthusiasm has tended to be tempered by the harsh reality
of a fast-evolving technology landscape that can often appear complex and disconnected.
But that landscape is changing as new platform-based approaches deliver secure, end-to-end connectivity and management solutions that can enable companies to seamlessly launch their IoT journeys to transform their businesses.