The Internet of Things has been an advertised technology for years, but the pandemic and associated tidal wave of remote work have pushed its current enterprise use into redundancy. Moreover, the IoT is maturing as vendors begin to sell fully functional applications, not just the components needed for businesses to build their own.
The pandemic has already spurred a sharp rise in the types of technologies for which the IoT is already known, including predictive maintenance in industry and automation at ports and other transportation facilities. In those areas IoT limits the amount of time workers spend on site because remotely monitored systems do not need to be maintained in person almost as often as they might otherwise. Some functions, including some types of inspection and servicing, can be fully handled remotely, further reducing the amount of time workers have to spend on the ground and in close proximity to each other.
Commercial IoT applications
The other big change in the IoT, said Gartner vice president and analyst Al Velosa, is far from the simple connection, where hardware vendors simply sell a way to get data from field assets in the cloud and toward fully integrated applications.
“What has really raised its head in 2021 and I think it will be the dominant trend are much more closed business applications,” he said. “We saw a number of companies unveil strategies that stop selling the IoT platform on its own. They are now selling the app, plus IoT. ”
It is effectively a shift from component sales to finished products, a sign of growing maturity in the IoT market, according to Velosa. In the past, a company like Sigfox could sell network connections to a business that already had endpoints to connect to and a new network to use. Now GE, Siemens and others are selling their operating technology as an integrated service. This is not the end of the world for independent retailers, it simply means that they are likely to sell their product or service to another retailer, rather than an enterprise.
More than that, integrated apps are being sold and distributed on a scale rather than in smattering and testing, as in the past, said Forrester chief analyst Michele Pelino. “These IoT initiatives are becoming much more realistic in a much broader sense,” she said. “The key here now is that those initiatives that are important to your organization – security, scalability – need to be addressed as they become more diverse.”
The increase in focus on IoT is reflected in costs, according to Velosa. A recent Gartner survey of IT decision makers on emerging technologies found that average IoT funding will increase from approximately $ 400,000 per organization in the last 12 months to $ 600,000 in 2022.
Security remains a challenge, in large part because IoT requires security at multiple levels – endpoints, network and cloud. Attacks on equipment have continued rapidly in 2021 and show no signs of slowing down. And because the responsibility for these different types of security falls on different stakeholders – the network vendor is responsible for a secure connection, the physical security device vendor and a cloud provider for the backend – there is a problem of action collective.
“There is a considerable focus for organizations to have security at multiple levels,” Velosa said. “Unfortunately, we also see ongoing problems with how those organizations actively fund this.”
These concerns may be exacerbated in the near future as more widespread IoT deployments – and deployments in more sensitive environments – take shape.
“When you start destroying the critical infrastructure that connects the world, you are potentially impacting millions of lives or critical resources and revenues,” Pelino said.
A sustainable IoT future
The IoT also promises hope for the future, Pelino said. One of the main drivers of IoT spending in the near future is sustainability, thanks in part to growing regulatory requirements in many industries.
IoT technology has a variety of ways to do this, from building maintenance systems that ensure lights are turned off in unoccupied rooms to industrial installations that monitor energy overuse or toxic emissions.
“The IoT me is about linking these processes and using real-time knowledge to contribute by ensuring that sustainability is being addressed in real time,” Pelino said.
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