Ready or not, IoT is here and evolving

Some say it’s here, not quite there, a marketing hype or just a passing phase. But irrespective of opinion, the reality is that the Internet of Things (IoT) is now impossible to ignore. The question you should be asking, rather, is whether your business will remain sustainable and competitive as IoT (and its capabilities) continues to evolve and other businesses take advantage of its growth.

While the term “Internet of Things” sounds like another buzz word, it has been in use for over 15 years – both as a term and a practice. It refers to a digital ecosystem where everything connects and communicates, including inanimate objects like everyday devices and industrial equipment, and living organisms such as people and animals.

With all these types of things connecting, they can form an entire network of things, resulting in a smart home, factory or business – or an entire smart city or global community.

A UK Government study estimates there were about 14 billion devices connected in 2013, and predicts that there will be between 20 and 100 billion connected devices by 2020 across the globe.

Interestingly, the manufacturing sector is one of the top users of IoT, with 25 per cent of global manufacturers estimated to currently use IoT technologies. This is estimated to grow to over 80 per cent by 2025.

And according to Deloitte’s recent Tech Trends report, ambient computing (where real business value is extracted from the use of IoT) is one of the “exponential” technologies whose performance (relative to cost and size) will experience rapid growth, and create new competition and opportunities.

But what do businesses think? In a recent World Economic Forum survey, 72 per cent of businesses believed that the development of IoT will be disruptive to their businesses and industries – and 79 per cent of businesses think those disruptions will occur within the next five years.

While some businesses have – to use the Prime Minister’s words – embraced this disruption, others have not. In a recent live poll of a broad audience (including non-ICT businesses) tuning in to Ai Group’s live webinar about The Future of Manufacturing, we asked viewers what they considered to be the most significant barriers to their engagement with new technology: the greatest proportion of respondents (32%) indicated that their biggest stumbling block was actually identifying what was relevant to their business.

This figure suggests that more work needs to be done to help businesses become more informed about new technology, including IoT. The challenge is how can this be done – a big topic beyond the confines of this Blog.

Businesses looking to understand IoT and how to take advantage of it should check out Ai Group’s Digital Business Kits. Through this website, Ai Group provides free online advice to SMEs and not-for-profit organisations within the manufacturing industry on how they can make the most of the opportunities digital technologies can provide to their businesses.

Most recently, Ai Group interviewed Australis Engineering, a Sydney manufacturer, on how they have used IoT and how this has positively impacted on their business. If you’re interested in finding out more about Australis Engineering’s IoT experience, a short video of the interview is now available to watch on your own digital device right now.

Does your organisation struggle to identify new technologies that could be relevant to your business? Or have you found useful ways to become better informed? Share your ideas, experiences and questions below.

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Charles is Digital Capability and Policy Lead at Ai Group, concentrating principally on policy relating to technology and digital issues. He has worked in a broad range of industries, including energy, broadcasting and telecommunications. Previously, he advised on energy policy for the Australian Energy Market Commission, and was Assistant Director of Engineering for Free TV Australia.

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