That is how quickly IoT has transformed from an unfamiliar technology acronym to a near-mandatory technology investment for companies in nearly every industry worldwide, especially manufacturers, utilities, government and those in warehousing and distribution. Now, you may argue that IoT (or Industrial IoT/IIoT) was far from a blip on the radar in 2015: Industry research firm Gartner said that approximately 4.9 billion connected "things" were already in use around the globe that year. But, if we’re being honest, that number pales in comparison to the 25 billion connected “things” Gartner expects to be online in 2020. Or the more than $800 billion that IDC expects to be spent worldwide on IoT this year alone. With global IoT spending expected to total nearly $1.4 trillion by 2021, it’s clear that the market is far from reaching maturation. “Enterprise investments in IoT hardware, software, services, and connectivity” are just starting to gain traction – and prove their worth. That means that we, as technologists and business leaders, are far from understanding – and unlocking – the full potential of connected technologies.
Just look at this 2017 Internet of Things Study released from MPI Group last week:
- 72% [of manufacturers surveyed] report increased productivity, and 69% report increased profitability, from application of the IoT to plants and processes
- 65% [of manufacturers] report increased profitability from sales of IoT-enabled products (e.g., embedded intelligence)
This “ just two years after nearly half of manufacturers hadn’t even heard of the IoT,” as MPI noted. That does not mean that manufacturers have maximized their application of IoT, however. In fact, for the second year in a row, manufacturers told MPI that they still do not really know where to start with IoT, and that is to be expected. Despite the exponential growth and multiplicity of IoT applications today, the inherent level of technological dependency, automation and trust is still uncharted territory for those still very reliant on (and confident in) their tried-and-true legacy technology systems. Just two years ago, the IoT market was still experimental, and it still is today depending on who you ask. But the underlying need to connect people to machines and data is not new.
That’s why, regardless of the technology acronym driving your digital investments this year (IoT, BI, GIS, etc.), it is important to remember that every digital transformation that has occurred in the last 20 years has been facilitated by one fundamental and mission-critical component: the mobile computer.
Think about it…
Manufacturers’ customers “expect an engaged and immersive experience with more immediate responses to their issues or complaints…a certain level of knowledge and awareness that's already in place to address an issue and to lead to a faster resolution. In response, manufacturers are arming their customer-facing roles, from call center to field services, with technology that can support better customer engagement. Mobile devices are the perfect conduit for this enhanced experience. In fact, a recent IDC Manufacturing Insights survey shows that over 78% of manufacturers believe deploying mobile devices and applications is important or very important in the coming 12 months for their service teams.”
These were the words of IDC Manufacturing Insights Research Manager Heather Ashton...two years ago. Long before the “sophistication or prevalence of smart devices” began to really transform the way we do business. Certainly, long before it became clear that digital laggards would struggle to remain competitive in today’s demanding, data-driven, IoT-connected world. Two years ago, it became clear (once again) that mobile devices made for industry – such as rugged tablets – would be far from obsolete as we entered the next digital era.
“We’re seeing manufacturers recognize that mobile devices – and specifically the tablet form factor – must become a more predominant component in factories’ technology mix.”
Even in the earliest days of “connected” everything, there was “ an increasing expectation [among the field service workforce in manufacturing] that the mobile device will provide actionable insight related to everything from customer accounts to product information to repair procedures.” There was also a prediction from IDC that “the rise of mobility and technology accelerators like the IoT will continue to impact how customer care is delivered as well as how field service professionals are instrumented to do their work.” In other words, it was evident from the beginning that mobile technologies would fuel the rise of information workers. Simply because it is nearly impossible to exploit IoT investments (or other Industry 4.0 technologies) without a reliable, always-connected rugged tablet in the hands of those workers responsible for collecting, mining and applying the data being generated across multiple – otherwise disparate systems – in real time.
So, for all of those manufacturers who “don’t know where to start” with IoT, I recommend you start by investing in a mobility solution that can connect with all of your existing operational technologies, as well as any IoT technologies you plan to integrate into your environment in the future.
“With the increased connectivity and digitalization occurring across industries, the need for rugged mobility is only increasing.”
As noted in a release we issued earlier this week: “Verified hardware and software enhance interoperability and allow faster time to production.” In other words, mobile computers that are proven to be software-agnostic and compatible with multiple sensor, automation and peripheral technologies will best facilitate the connections between your digital ecosystem and your information workers. Look for solutions that are part of the Microsoft Azure Certified for IoT program, as you can be confident they will likely have proven interoperability with the IoT hardware, software and services in your network.
And remember: Some say that IoT has become a powerful force for disruption. But technology, in general, should not be disruptive. You do not want to spend money on anything that could compound the very problem it was supposedly designed to solve. Instead, technology should be a conduit for change – for business process improvement and new efficiency – without disruption. And, mobile devices should be front and center in your digital technology architecture. After all, they are the one tool proven to facilitate the constant “handshake” that must occur between your data generators and data consumers.
Learn more about how rugged tablets can contribute to your IoT ROI:
Download the playbook: Don’t Walk Into a Mobility Trap - How to Formulate the Best-Fitting Solution for Your Manufacturing Environment
Read the blog: Solving for X: How Manufacturers Must Use Mobility to Keep Moving Forward