The rise of IoT

Craig Smith, director IoT and analytics solutions and services at Tech Data, shares his thoughts about the rise of the Internet of Things

In all walks life, we are becoming more and more dependent on machines and data. Equipment that was once analogue, is now shiny machines packed full sophisticated electronics, generating a constant flow data. Just look at your watch for instance. The old ticking the second hand has been replaced by streams data showing heart rate and all manner environmental factors. It seems like we are finding reasons to connect just about anything and everything to the internet. The recent rise in the internet things (IoT) has ushered in what has been dubbed the “fourth industrial revolution”. Gartner estimates that 20 billion connected devices will be in use worldwide in the next 18 months.

Why Invest in IoT?

When it comes to commercial applications, IoT is already delivering radical and sometimes disruptive transformation. Most progressive organisations are seriously exploring how IoT can give them their next competitive advantage. As with all these things, there is a cost versus return exercise that needs to be worked through. Organisations that manage to find ways getting the best ratio between cost and return will obviously see the greatest success.

The range IoT hardware available is vast, including everything from smart meters and smart watches, to connected children’s toys, and the market is still growing. What’s more, IoT sensors are being increasingly used by businesses all sizes across numerous industries, especially in retail and manufacturing. With total spending on endpoints in 2017 worth £2 trillion alone, it’s safe to say that IoT has become big business for those capable unlocking its potential.

IoT provides businesses with a powerful data resource gathered from devices traditionally difficult to derive data from. For instance, data on where delivery vehicles are and their ETA at any given moment can be mixed with other contextual data, like traffic and weather, to show when a given component will be available to a consumer in store and thus improve customer service, trust and loyalty.

IoT has also seen widespread adoption in manufacturing, with IDC forecasting that this will be where the most investment will be made in 2018. The primary use IoT in manufacturing is for predictive maintenance, where IoT sensors monitor various inputs and outputs to track the wear-and-tear machinery. This allows manufacturers to repair or replace parts before they break, avoiding critical failure, which causes unplanned disruptions to production and incurs significant costs for manufacturers. The data from IoT sensors is also often used to track performance, allowing manufacturers to understand what is normal for that piece of machinery and create an automated system that will halt production if an abnormal circumstance arises, preventing mistakes and the waste of valuable raw materials.

Whatever your business does, there’s most likely an opportunity for IoT to transform it for the better, and channel partners are there to guide businesses through the process successfully.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

It was recently World Environment Day, where many organisations and government bodies paid homage to ‘greener’ legislations and business solutions. Surprisingly, one of the most notable attempts to reduce the negative environmental impact of urbanisation is to make cities smarter with the help of IoT. Smart cities, theoretically, will be able to monitor and adjust the population’s consumption behaviour based on data derived from smart devices. By recording and analysing data with the help of IoT and AI, it is possible to determine the most efficient and greenest ways to use and manage our cities.

As businesses come under increasing pressure to encourage and implement environmentally-friendly solutions for their employees and customers alike, investment in IoT will give them the ability to implement greener strategies across their whole organisation and fast.

What Are The Typical Barriers to Entry When it Comes to IoT?

Research conducted earlier this year by satellite communications company Inmarsat revealed that many organisations lack the skills to develop, manage and deploy IoT solutions, especially in areas such as data analytics and cyber security. IoT demands a broad range of very different IT skills. In order to take full advantage of the opportunities that IoT offers, it’s important to build or have access to a dedicated IoT team and not just shift the lion’s share of responsibility onto an already stretched IT department. For businesses in the channel, the answer to filling this burgeoning IoT skills gap – and quickly – lies in partnering with an IoT aggregator that already has the appropriate skillset in place to accelerate IoT deployment across the whole enterprise on their behalf.

How do You Start Your IoT Journey and The Role of The IT Channel?

Data is a new business staple, and as the technology behind IoT has matured, so has the thinking around how to put this data to good use. Sensors are now being deployed more strategically and more effectively or to solve particular problems. Helping businesses to do this is where savvy channel partners come to the fore to take the mounting pressure away from in-house IT teams, and into the hands of a team of specially designated IoT experts who can guide an organisation on its way to IoT success.

Channel partners and distributors are increasingly funnelling more and more funding into IoT solutions, as well as into IoT-specific training to educate vendors and customers on how to deploy IoT effectively, in a bid to raise awareness around the possibilities IoT offers the channel, and maximise ROI. Businesses in the channel have, as a result, more opportunities than ever before to learn how IoT can benefit their organisations and make the most of the opportunities that IoT offers with the help of the distributor’s expertise.

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