This year’s Executive Internet of Things Event was different from the ones in the past for our community:
- It was a virtual event in the spirit of the times, the topic, and the safety of attendees
- The new format allowed us to enlarge our IoT community
- It took place in three sessions during three different weeks
The first session provided a good initial pulse check of the overall diverse market for IoT use cases, technologies, services and business models.
The current global pandemic has impacted the adoption of the IoT. As expected, funding for IoT start-ups has reduced year to year, but adoption of IoT use cases in public and corporate environments is accelerating. In addition, the global pandemic has brought some innovative IoT-powered solutions to help cope with the pandemic's implications. Examples include remote monitoring, disinfection robots and smart helmets.
Across all speakers, panelists and audience questions, one theme clearly emerged:
The companies successful with the IoT were the ones that focused on vertical integration. A quote by one of our speakers from a large automotive OEM pairs well with our observation of successful IoT deployments:
‘Nothing has changed, but everything has changed.’
Vertical integrations succeed when they integrate almost seamlessly in the existing situation.
And, as described by a multinational lighting manufacturer, successful deployments in practice are more of a people and organization topic question than a technology question. As such, the key learnings from their smart factories center around the need to:
- Change the mind-set of the people
- Transform the organizational structure
- Take small steps with fast cycles to help you learn continuously
We closed the first session on a bold sentiment. Yes, the current COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down adoption of and investment in the IoT overall. Nevertheless, the market is experiencing double-digit growth, and for many IoT use cases, the current social-distancing practice is a catalyst.
The second session made this even more evident. The IoT is ubiquitous; today it is enabling and enhancing business and personal life.
- Two European leaders in the travel & transportation highlighted how the IoT had improved operations and gave a figure to keep in mind: a modern train or plane has more than 1,000 computers on board
- A worldwide leader in robotics solutions presented the impressive case of its product: an IoT-connected, autonomous vacuum cleaner
- Two large manufacturing companies further showed how the IoT was improving business processes, for the factory and the workforce
All the use cases had one thing in common: their successes were because of clear, positive business cases, seamless integration with the workflow/business process, and ultimately, integration with the environment.
In the third session, we learned more from the supply perspective, the ecosystem and the enabling infrastructure, where partnerships are becoming the new norm.
A telco operator brought up the importance of combining mobile private networks (MPNs), 5G and mobile edge computing. For a company designing and building electrical systems the conclusion was that there is already technology in place and we should not wait for 5G for implementation. Nevertheless, the introduction of 5G would drastically increase the option space, especially by enabling ultra-reliable, low-latency communications. A provider of on-demand cloud computing platforms gave insights into how to enable scale and flexibility. And another leading telco operator further elaborated on this, highlighting the importance of focusing on minimizing the complexity and barriers for customers and embracing the ecosystem – introducing co-opetition. A multinational telecommunications conglomerate was also positioning itself for this by taking on an ecosystem orchestrator role to make things easier for collaborators such as hardware providers to onboard, adopt and scale. Last but not least, a global technology house showed how it had brought all of this together in a smart condition-monitoring use case.
Overall, this year’s event theme, ’from pilot to payback’, has been, and continues to be, a key challenge for IoT projects – not only to get past the pilot stage, but also generate solutions that are scalable and replicable and can generate payback for users and solutions providers alike.