Hence, the current timeline seems to indicate a set of barriers; while there is already sufficient technology to offer clear value to public and private organisations’ processes, these barriers are seeing the impact take a lot longer than predicted. For that reason, at least for now, IoT is a technological dream that has not quite come true.
Waiting for a return on investment
From an ROI point of view, the cost of technology is decreasing. However, in some cases this decrease still isn't enough to compensate for the expected benefits. There are standards and platforms in place, but they are not mature or stable enough to make it clear whether we are backing technology that will be long-lasting and scalable over time. This means some decisions are based on waiting for the market to stabilise before diving into implementing solutions.
Coexisting with other technologies
Another aspect to bear in mind is that, ultimately, IoT is a data channel that, as far as we can tell from device number growth forecasts, will inundate us with information. If we successfully convert these data into valuable information for our organisational processes, this will be a very positive thing. To do so, we need cloud or on-premise architectures that are able to support this intake of data, big data and analytics in order to extract valuable information. We need modern user interfaces that enable efficient interaction with the system for operations and decision-making, and artificial intelligence so these actions and decisions can be implemented automatically. All these devices and data need adequate physical and logical security in geographically distributed environments that are beyond our control.
It is also important to take into account scalability and the future of solutions. Once implementation is over, this does not signal the end of investment. Devices need to be managed and maintained. Logically, as a system, it is sensitive to incidents, firmware updates, communication management, finite duration of batteries, the emergence of new, better technologies, etc. The IoT requires constant, long-standing investment to keep the solution alive.
All of the above clearly demonstrates that the IoT is in constant motion. Changes in technology occur so quickly that understanding it can be complicated. This has the knock-on effect of making it more difficult to define use cases for organisational processes in user areas. This lack of maturity obscures the long-term vision needed for proper corporate strategic planning of IoT solutions. Greater coordination is needed between departments in an organisation in order to create a single, harmonised corporate IoT vision in line with digital transformation strategy.
However, this state of maturity that we have already defined as “adolescent” also has its advantages. The long-term impact is taking its time, but there is already a certain curiosity that is inherent to this adolescence. There is much excitement around proof of concept, increasing the level of knowledge in both IT and user areas, and finding a niche where it is already applied.
In the public sector, proof of concept is two-way. The first consists in making cities more efficient when it comes to expenditure, for example with energy efficiency solutions, risk management, telemetry, etc. The second works on the functionalities that improve citizens’ everyday lives, as is the case with parking in public areas, smart waste collection or real-time information services for multimodal transport.
In the world of industry, the use of sensors to optimise business processes is not a new concept; it is a technology that is inherent to industrial automation. But IoT goes much further than owned platforms, offering solutions in much more complex connected environments, with unlimited access to energy sources, in uncontrolled physical locations, including literally in the street. Operational efficiency (asset location, product traceability, measuring of physical or chemical quality, fraud detection, alert and action triggers, identification of people and things, inventory monitoring, etc.) and improvements to customer services (activity monitoring, custom offerings, underconsumption of goods and services, incident warnings, etc.) are just some examples of elements we are working on as interesting use cases for business.
Ultimately, the application of IoT is seen as having great potential in all aspects concerning people's lives and organisational processes. These technologies will enable us to generate new feelings on how we view the world around us. These new feelings will create two types of opportunities. The first stems from the ability to feel more: enriching the level of detail and opportunity offered by the data we have access to in order to further refine the information we use to make decisions. The second is the most transformational, as it will enable us to find out more and generate new levels of abstraction, which will provide us with a brand new vision of the reality surrounding us, offering perspectives that we cannot even fathom today.
The promise of social changes that the IoT represents is so overwhelming that it leaves us longing for this new reality. But, for now, we should keep working to ensure these IoT promises come to fruition. In the meantime, be patient. It's coming.