The internet of things (IoT) is revolutionising businesses, from the ways they interact with customers to the factory floor. We explore the role of IoT from manufacturing to customer service to telecommunications
The internet of things (IoT) represents the intersection of the physical and the digital, hence its enormous usefulness to businesses looking to get concrete results out of digital transformation. Defined by Gartner as “the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment”, it’s obvious that the technology can enable a broad range of possibilities across different industries. Here, we dive deeper into just a few such applications.
Increased capacity for communication between devices using the internet of things has enabled collaborative robots to work alongside humans in a factory setting. Data collected form IoT-enabled devices can also be analysed to make improvements or construct digital twins of real world spaces for yet more insights. Industrial conglomerate Honeywell is one of many players in the space. It says the industrial internet of things has the capacity to improve performance, availability, reliability, safety and security by connecting people with processes and assets.
It’s not just the factory floor that is experiencing an IoT revolution, with even the way we interact with companies being transformed. IoT is shifting responsibility from companies to consumers in areas such as ordering food at a restaurant or buying tickets at a cinema, thanks to IoT-enable self-service machines. We spoke to Jacques Mangeot, the CEO of Acrelec, a manufacturer of digital signage and pay stations, whose customers include McDonalds, Starbucks and Burger King, and which recently raised over US$220mn in funding.
“Studies have shown that the use of self-ordering kiosks results in increased spending,” says Mangeot. “Kiosks do a great job at upselling products and provide the customer with detailed information which positively affects their purchasing decision. A great example of this can be found in a study conducted by McDonalds, one of our most well-known clients. The research showed that the average order size using a kiosk is as much as a dollar higher, while 20% of customers who didn’t initially order a drink bought one when it was offered.”
The company’s approach has been validated by the installation of 40,000 of its devices across 70 countries, facilitating two billion transactions per year. “Apart from increasing sales, speeding up the checkout process and improving consumer engagement, our kiosks are driven by real customer insight and offer invaluable data and analytics to further improve the consumer journey,” says Mangeot. “ The use of self-service kiosks also means that businesses can save resources, particularly staff time. Processing orders can be extremely time-consuming, but with self-checkouts the queue size is automatically reduced, giving staff more time to prepare orders and keep things running smoothly at peak times. Acrelec simply makes the Smart Restaurant a reality.”
It’s worth also considering the role of the telecommunications industry in enabling the rapid expansion of IoT. An evolution of standards has enabled the easier connectivity of devices, with the likes of NB-IoT and LTE-M being low power, wide area technologies specifically designed for the needs of IoT devices. The coming of 5G and the associated increase in speeds will make IoT devices smarter, while also generating huge amounts of data and potential security risks.
Telecommunications industry body GSMA produced a white paper on the subject, in collaboration with Ericsson and others, detailing the potential benefits to IoT provided by the next generation of communications technology: “Mobile IoT delivers connectivity on a massive scale today and will continue to do so in the 5G future enabling key IoT applications such as smart metering to help reduce energy consumption, smart logistics to enhance distribution efficiency and smart environmental monitoring to reduce city pollution.”
IoT, then, is making headway across a broad range of industries, and offering transformative new approaches to old problems. Gartner predicts that the enterprise and automotive IoT market alone will feature 5.8 billion endpoints in 2020, with utilities being the standout adopter. “Electricity smart metering, both residential and commercial will boost the adoption of IoT among utilities,” said Peter Middleton, senior research director at Gartner, in a press release. “Physical security, where building intruder detection and indoor surveillance use cases will drive volume, will be the second largest user of IoT endpoints in 2020.”
Forecasting even further into the future, IDC predicts that IoT devices will generate 79.4 zettabytes of data in 2025, from 41.6 billion IoT devices. In a press release, Carrie MacGillivray, group vice president, IoT, 5G and Mobility at IDC, said: "As the market continues to mature, IoT increasingly becomes the fabric enabling the exchange of information from 'things', people, and processes. Data becomes the common denominator – as it is captured, processed, and used from the nearest and farthest edges of the network to create value for industries, governments, and individuals' lives. Understanding the amount of data created from the myriad of connected devices allows organizations and vendors to build solutions that can scale in this accelerating data-driven IoT market."
IoT-enabled smart devices are becoming an ever more present part of our lives, whether that’s the smart speakers in our homes or the many more unseen ways IoT is impacting the products we buy and the ways we consume them.