Asia is pace-setter in IoT

A Vodafone survey has put Asia on the forefront of internet of things (IoT) adoption, with 36% of the region’s businesses reportedly using connected devices in 2017, up 200% from 2013.

The global survey of business sentiment relating to investment and innovation in IoT showed that 77% of Asia’s businesses now see IoT as mission-critical to their business, with 88% of respondents reporting an increased use of IoT in the past year. Over half acknowledged that IoT has increased their market competitiveness.

When it came to optimism and the future, Asia’s message to the world was even clearer. Over 90% of businesses in the region believe IoT will have a sizeable impact on the wider economy in the next five years, while 79% believe IoT usage will rise as security and privacy concerns decline.

But how has IoT benefited businesses? According to the survey, topping the list of benefits were greater business insights, reduced costs and improved productivity. Asian businesses also reported improved brand differentiation (42%) and market competitiveness (53%), as compared to 35% in the Americas and 33% in Europe, respectively.

It may come as a surprise that Asian businesses tend to view IoT security more positively, rather than being a barrier to IoT deployment, giving them the confidence to do more. In fact, 86% of respondents saw security as an enabler of IoT deployment compared to 79% globally. Some 83% of businesses also claimed to have adequate skills to manage IoT security, ahead of Europe (70%) and the Americas (65%).

When it comes to IoT connectivity, the survey found that businesses are looking at using a mix of technologies from fixed line to low power wide area networks (LP-WAN) depending on the application.

Large scale projects tend to use mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity, though there is increasing interest in narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), with 28% of all companies now considering it and other LP-WAN options, for new IoT projects.

To Singapore bike-sharing startup oBike, LP-WAN connectivity supplied by UnaBiz, a Sigfox network operator, will enable it to locate its bikes at regular intervals.

Currently, the operator’s bikes are connected to its users’ bike-sharing app via Bluetooth and 3G/4G networks. When a user concludes a ride, the user’s phone will send a signal of the bike’s last location to a cloud service run by oBike, which will then highlight the bike’s location on the map. The issue is that if a bike is moved when locked, oBike will not be able to track and trace it.

Meanwhile, China’s ofo, another bike-sharing service provider, is using China Mobile’s NB-IoT network and Huawei’s IoT chipsets to manage its bikes through smart locks. Each lock collects information such as equipment status, user data and operating data, allowing bikes to be located and serviced easily.

Such proven use cases, whether they involve the use of NB-IoT, Sigfox or other types of LP-WAN networks, will go a long way to instil confidence in organisations that are still holding back any IoT adoption plans.