Benefiting From the IoT Opportunity: Three industry trends that will make your deployment in 2017 a better one

Allen Proithis, President, Sigfox, North America
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There is no doubt the IoT space is growing at an enormous rate, in fact the number of connected devices soared to a 30 percent growth in 2016 from the previous year, according to one Gartner report. 2017 will be a year we see IoT not only continue to grow, but also mature as an industry. If IoT has not reserved a space in every company's priority list, it should. Gartner projects by 2020 more than half of major new business processes and systems will incorporate some element of the IoT. If you are one of those companies, here's some maturity trends you'll see unfold over the course of 2017, which will help make your deployment and implementation more frictionless than early adopters. We love early adopters, but like anyone who has ever ventured into new territory can tell you, be it the person who purchases the newest smartphone, or the company that downloads the newest operating system, or the pioneers of space exploration, IoT had a few bumps in the road.

One maturation trend the industry will see is the wrangling of the abundance of IoT data. Instead of focusing on the things in IoT, the focus will shift on what the things produce – data. One of the greatest benefits of connected devices is the amount of real-time data that is available. All the value is in the data, yet harnessing the power of the data is one of the greatest challenges.

 Instead of focusing on the things in IoT, the focus will shift on what the things produce – data. 

Beyond harnessing, companies will streamline the flow of data into consumable and actionable information, to avoid death by data, a phenomenon where too much data becomes overwhelming and the receiver simply tunes out. The information is still valuable, but because consumption of information was not put into a proper work flow, it goes into junk folders, deleted or simply ignored. Finding from a McKinsey Global Institute study, revealed that IoT data being collected by companies is not being used, and furthermore the data that is being used is not being fully exploited as up to 90 percent of data is only viewed once or not at all.

Consider for a minute droves of real-time data flowing in at a rate of over 100 push notifications daily. Perhaps you’re in charge of a several data centers and whenever there is a blip in the power grid, your phone erupts with messages about a disruption in power supply, the building generating is on, building generation is running, generating is running at 75 percent fuel consumption, blip in the power line, street power is still off, still running on generator, fuel is at 72 percent consumption, and so forth. Now, take the same disruption in power scenario and instead of 100 push notifications you get a recap of the day where you can see power spikes and dips, length of an outage and fuel consumption. Same information, just architected in a more useful, impactful and actionable manner.

2017 will be the year of data harnessing and more intuitive and actionable flow of information which will help companies identify new revenue streams, streamline operational processes, and increase efficiencies.

Another trend, to which we are already seeing, but will cumulatively expand, is more connected devices, or what I like to call the democratization of IoT. Depending on the analyst firm you follow the number of connected devices forecasted for 2020 fluctuates from 10 billion to 100 billion. Time will tell the exact number, but there is one thing for certain, the number of connected devices is rising and will continue to rise at a rapid pace.

Traditionally, the benefits of IoT have been limited to a very select small group of participants – an elite few – primarily due to limitations of technology. Limitations such as cost, battery life, and complexity, left an overwhelming majority of devices excluded from having a voice in IoT. We are now entering a tipping point in IoT, where there is a broader democratization in IoT with advancement in technology.

Traditional 3G / 4G technology was not built for things, it was built for humans, and while it works well for its intended people use, it’s not cost efficient for hardware nor per device connectivity. In addition, it has a very strict limitation on device battery life. Things, especially things in the scale of thousands, need to be operable for years or even decades without attention to their battery. Recharging device batteries in this type of quantity just doesn’t scale.

Dedicated IoT connectivity networks such as SIGFOX’s Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) provides wide range communications at a low bit rate, thus enabling connected devices to operate cost efficiently and at an unprecedented battery life. LPWAN by nature is battery consumption conservative, instead of constantly signaling to the devices, a device simply “wakes up” to transmit a short message, and then goes back to sleep. This technology is enabling mass adoption of IoT because it is built for things.

Rounding out the top three trends of 2017 will be the emergence of strong ecosystem partnerships. For anyone who has tried to implement a trial, they will tell you IoT is a complex landscape with many layers in the stack. To get started in IoT one needs to gather the chip, the module, the connectivity solution, data storage, hosting, reporting, data visualizing, and workflow management, which can grind on even the most seasoned of technology implementation experts.

In the case of IoT, the sum is not greater than its parts, rather the parts are equally important as the entire sum. Partnerships between hardware, software, and service providers stack are going to offer a complete IoT solution. Ideally, the partnership will be agnostic, like SIGFOX’s ecosystem partners, so customers will not be bound to one chip provider or one cloud platform.

Suppliers, no matter where they are in the stack, will help buyers connect the IoT dots, and not simply sell one solution in a vacuum. By doing so, the entire industry will help speed up the adoption, and more importantly the implementation of IoT.

As the IoT industry matures there will be more lesson it learns, but like the technology trailblazers before us who envisioned technology not for the sake of gadgetry, but the sake of making a tangible difference, the trail has bumps and will even leave a few bruises. There are lessons learned along the path that make the climb easier. The data, technology built for devices, and strong ecosystems were valuable lessons IoT learned this year and will only be stronger at these in 2017. There will be more lessons to learn in the year ahead. You don’t go through a 30 percent year over year increase without learning a few things. 

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