Why so many organizations sideline Internet of Things strategies

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The billions of devices that are part of the internet of things make it easy to overlook a basic fact: Beyond health trackers, internet-enabled light switches, and connected thermostats, IoT adoption has lagged. A PwC study found that while 81 percent of consumers are familiar with the IoT, only 26 percent own smart home devices.

A similar situation exists in the business world. Companies are installing connected systems here and there, but certainly not everywhere. Even broad smart city and smart utility initiatives are often more a collection of point solutions than a broad and highly integrated IoT framework.

The challenge for both consumers and businesses is comparable — and ironic: It’s difficult and often expensive to connect connected systems. Ultimately, time and dollars may go down the drain because organizations are unable to achieve the efficiency — and synergy — that a connected world promises. What’s more, for businesses, this scenario often leads to technical and practical dead ends and a perpetual “rip and replace” approach to the IoT.

One big barrier to business adoption of the IoT is the lack of a foundational layer. Companies need to build a foundation before jumping into a massive IoT implementation. They need to focus on making dumb things smart, deploying infrastructure that’s not going to break the bank, and finding out what data intelligence can do for their business.

Another barrier revolves around widespread security and privacy concerns. The IoT industry must build trust by architecting solutions that are both secure and compliant with privacy regulations.

Once these two barriers are dismantled, the IoT will take off.

Getting smarter about the IoT

Any discussion about the IoT starts with a simple but often overlooked fact: Objects and assets possess no inherent intelligence. It’s all about the “smarts” humans build into them. Consequently, a dozen — or a million — smart devices operating within separate but disconnected systems won’t have the same impact and value as a collection of devices and systems that work together synergistically.

In order to slide the dial from tactical to strategic, an enterprise must focus on identifying value points, determining how data can help unlock that value, and connecting the right devices and systems in the right way. When an enterprise pinpoints value — for customers, employees, partners and others — it suddenly holds a map and a compass that points to specific devices, tools, technologies and solutions.

However, an IoT platform must also be flexible and agile enough to support changes in devices, software and the overall business environment. Fast pivots and modular deployments — what many describe as agile environments — are now paramount.

Unfortunately, the task is trickier than many business and IT leaders recognize. Because devices and software aren’t compatible, the end result is exactly what these organizations are attempting to avoid: separate apps, dashboards, software and controls for each device or system.

At some point, of course, these solutions lead to a new problem: how to manage everything and generate value. The situation can become unwieldy when an enterprise has dozens or more different IoT systems in place — or operates across geographic regions.

Making all connections count

One factor that has helped drive adoption in the consumer market is the emergence of platforms such as Apple HomeKit, Google Home and Amazon Alexa. These frameworks can tie together products from different vendors within a single app or control interface. This delivers automation and flexibility for individuals using groups of IoT devices.

This approach also makes sense in the business world. However, there’s currently a problem: No turnkey platform or framework for combining groups of IoT devices exists — at least, not in a simple and viable way. But this doesn’t mean that organizations should sit on the sidelines and wait for platforms to emerge. A good system integrator can weave together products and groups of solutions so that they operate within a single dashboard.

The result can be transformative.

For example, companies can benefit from sensors that identify lights about to burn out; image recognition technology that identifies trays left outside doors; sensors that turn off cooling, heating, and lighting when guests leave rooms; and an array of other capabilities. Each of these systems produce value on their own, but the ability to combine them and monitor everything at a single dashboard ratchets up the value proposition significantly.

Assembling an integrated framework is doable. The key is to select an IoT systems integrator that can design and construct a workable connected framework using the right combination of hardware, sensors, software, and APIs. And the system must meet these core needs: It should be secure, reliable, scalable and affordable.

Increasing adoption of the IoT comes down to delivering immediate value while building a platform for the future. Organizations that graduate from connected devices to connected solutions are able to unlock greater ROI from the IoT. They’re also able to unlock innovation on a previously unimaginable scale.

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