Internet of things is one of the few emerging technologies that managed to gain a foothold in the business world. In roughly 20 years, it made its way from being a budding concept and its first experimental implementations to a viable business instrument.
As of now, the IoT technologies are actively deployed across industries. Certain verticals have taken the lead as the most ardent adopters and are expected to retain this attitude in the near future.
In 2019, according to Gartner’s estimates, the global network of enterprise and automotive IoT endpoints encompassed 4.8 billion devices and will grow by an impressive 17% this year, reaching up to 5.8 billion endpoints. Vertical-wise, utilities are expected to remain the sector with the biggest share of 1.37 billion endpoints in 2020, while construction automation is predicted to experience the largest growth rate of 42%. Retail has successfully identified IoT use cases, and so have other major verticals, such as transportation, government and healthcare, that will accelerate their adoption rates respectively.
The global leaders of today put high stakes on the internet of things, believing it will prompt innovation and contribute to the emergence of brand-new business models. The last year’s global survey by the Harvard Business Review highlights that 74% of executives believe IoT is bound to become a competitive differentiator in their vertical in the next couple of years.
Transformative value of enterprise IoT: real-life cases
Despite being in active use only for a relatively short time, the IoT principles and technologies have already had a measurable effect on their adopters. Yesterday’s wide-eyed enthusiasts who attempted an IoT transformation have dropped their rose-tinted glasses and now can reflect on the impact and downsides.
The respondents of Microsoft IoT Signals, a 2019 survey among business and IT decision-makers from various industries, gave from three to four major reasons why they opted for IoT adoption. As it turned out, the top five sought-after benefits of the enterprise connectivity are business performance, staff productivity, workplace safety and security, quality assurance, and asset tracking.
Connecting the disparate equipment—from conveyor belts and workshops to warehouses and retail points—into a single internet of things allows gaining unprecedented visibility and control over every operation. Based on the collected body of data, the software will automatically adjust lagging or inefficient production practices or deliver integrated IoT data analytics for decision-makers to make a judgment.
But the positive effect of IoT can be stretched beyond the equipment operation. An ecosystem of connected wearables can also analyze employees’ movements and workplace conditions and coordinate their efforts in real time to augment productivity as well as enforce on-site safety.
Tailored to the enterprise’s needs and specifics, an IoT system can promote sustainable resource use and a balanced workload, detect and get rid of flaws in the equipment operation and maintenance, and enhance this organization’s cost-efficiency.
A success story
L’Oreal is the world’s largest personal care company that has always heavily relied on research and innovation to deliver products of outstanding quality. Recently, the enterprise decided to revamp its manufacturing processes with IoT.
The newly built plant in Libramont, Belgium, was chosen as an experimental ground. The facility’s production lines were enhanced with interconnected cameras, sensors, measuring devices, and smart conveyor belts. The devices collected production data and sent it to an AI-powered platform for further analysis.
The redesigned production helped L’Oreal gain valuable insights into their manufacturing processes. The pool of accurate data from the devices allowed for making informed decisions and adjust the plant operations to attain maximum efficiency.
The traditional workplace is going away. For the last few decades, it’s been evolving from uninviting factory-style floors and cubicle farms into open spaces. Today, business owners devote substantial efforts and finances to render their smart offices employee-friendly and convenient for both individual work and collaboration. This is where IoT can come in handy.
The most promising use case for the technology is remote work enablement. A corporate ecosystem of connected equipment, from traditional laptops to small devices like watches, will obliviate the need for sharing a physical space to cooperate seamlessly but allow employees to work from any location they find stimulating.
IoT offers opportunities for augmenting in-office cooperation as well. Equipping meeting rooms with measuring sensors allows for maintaining a healthy working environment with a comfortable temperature, humidity, and CO2 concentration. Beyond that, IoT software can analyze the capacity of collaboration spaces and their demand, to offer recommendations on balancing out scheduled meetings or to predict the availability of a certain room.
A success story
The Edge Amsterdam is a smart IoT-powered office building created for the global audit and consulting company Deloitte. Constructed with the aim to support and optimize the business processes taking place under its roof, the Edge was equipped with 28,000 sensors that send resident-generated data to be analyzed for adjusting the building’s efficiency.
To enhance the workplace productivity, the sensors track movements and activities of all of Deloitte’s employees and guide them to the available or most convenient working spaces via a dedicated mobile application. This way, the workspaces can be evenly and rationally distributed so that the staff wastes no time in an attempt to find an unoccupied meeting room at the last minute.
Physical security and staff safety
Physical security provision is not the most obvious association with the internet of things, yet the Microsoft IoT Signals report cited it as the third most popular reason for its implementation. So, why is such a counter-intuitive technology recognized as a viable addition to the enterprise safety management system?
The IoT connectivity and light-speed data processing enhance the conventional devices for access control and surveillance, turning them into communication ecosystems. The activity information from each IoT-enabled device can be instantly transmitted to a unified database, creating a steady digital trail of all security events within the enterprise. In the case of intrusion on the premises, this information can be passed on from surveillance cameras to door locks, immediately blocking the closest ones and thus nipping the perpetrator’s progress in the bud.
In addition to the described security scenarios, enterprise IoT can assist with intelligent monitoring, vehicle tracking, beacon-enabled perimeter protection, and biometric recognition. Due to its versatility, the technology can be employed to render physical safety at multiple locations, from traditional office facilities and smart offices to industrial or remote sites like factories, rigs, and mines.
A success story
Itransition set up a dedicated center of internet-of-things development to implement a real-time physical security monitoring for a European manufacturer of smart building management solutions.
As a result of meticulous engineering and development, we delivered an intelligent system that controls automatic door locks in the office spaces, accessible only via a secure PIN or an access token. The system also allows the responsible party to introduce granular role-based access to various locations and set up the doors to unlock automatically at the appointed time.
Apart from developing this sophisticated functionality, we ensured that the platform could withstand an occasional high load of server requests without failing. To provide the users with a native mobile app experience, our team converted the platform’s frontend into a progressive web app.
Today, the platform is in good standing with business owners globally, powering up multiple office locations and ensuring employees’ physical security.
Despite all-pervasive production automation, quality assurance at manufacturing sites has not been widely streamlined yet and still relies on human labor to some extent. However, IoT has all the prerequisites to become the long-awaited solution to this. As quality control heavily depends on precise information and its correct interpretation, the internet of things easily ticks both boxes.
A net of enterprise IoT sensors can detect performance or quality degradation earlier and much more precisely than human supervisors, saving significant sums in warranty costs and spoilage. The technology can also prolong the equipment lifespan by closely monitoring its state, drawing up optimized maintenance schedules, and predicting a failure before it disrupts production workflows.
Factories have already recognized the technology’s value: Statista predicts that by 2020 the vertical will collectively spend up to $40 billion on IoT applications in manufacturing. It doesn’t show what share will be spent on quality assurance technologies specifically, but one can safely assume it would not be the smallest.
A success story
Harley-Davidson is a renowned motorcycle producer from the USA and one of the most successful IoT adopters among manufacturers of this class.
The company employs an interconnected system of software and beacons at their plant in York, Pennsylvania. The scanners monitor production end to end, keeping track of the product quality and adjusting the production lines if needed. For instance, the paint booth sensors analyze the humidity and heat within the booths and alert the software to take action in case the measurements do not meet the standards.
These innovations allowed Harley-Davidson to optimize its manufacturing process, cut down the delivery time, and ensure the impeccable quality of the produced vehicles.
Today, more and more organizations choose to digitalize their workplace, getting wired up with a complex net of physical assets, high-tech and conventional, large and small, stationary and movable. Staying accountable for such an intricate distributed ecosystem with traditional methods will undeniably present quite a challenge for enterprises of all scales. This is where enterprise IoT can add a new dimension to asset tracking.
Uniting the wealth of equipment, devices, and other assets into a single IoT ecosystem allows keeping track of these assets’ location and transportation as well as get credible information on each item’s state, anytime. Apart from ensuring accountability, the system helps protect the assets from theft and detect their location accurately in case of loss.
The asset-tracking IoT will be a good addition to manufacturing, wholesale or logistics enterprises that need to keep track of multiple pieces of constantly moving machinery and smaller equipment. IoT can also prove essential for medical facilities, allowing them to control the location and availability of the equipment, inventory, and medication.
A success story
One of our customers owns a network of coworking spaces nearby train stations, airports, and conference centers. They target people on business trips who need a conveniently located workplace for a short period of time. In addition to conventional coworking spaces, the facilities include rooms equipped with audio and video systems and secured by PIN-protected door locks.
Itransition helped the customer interconnect a broad range of smart devices into a single IoT network that could be managed from a centralized system in real time.
We also revamped the solution’s user-facing component—a coworking booking app. To deliver a functional and user-friendly application, Itransition’s team continuously monitored the admins’ and users’ feedback to align the app’s functionality with their actual needs.
As a result of our improvements, the company can easily keep tabs on all the smart devices along with their locations and statuses anytime via a unified system.
Enterprise IoT: a fertile ground for innovation
Over the last decade, the internet of things has proved to be transformative for enterprises across industries. For those who managed to successfully adopt IoT, this technology redefined business processes and created smarter, safer and more efficient workspaces.
But despite the scores of success stories, proven efficiency, and executive buy-in, a fair share of enterprises tends to face roadblocks at the outset of their IoT projects. Microsoft’s IoT Signals study cited above determined that one-third of IoT projects are abandoned after the proof of concept stage. However, the most common IoT challenges —technical unpreparedness, budget shortages, and skill gap—are the ones that are typically associated with emerging technologies and can be expected to naturally wane when IoT grows more mature.
Even though IoT seems to be approaching its climax today, the recent technological advancements may chart a new territory for its application. Specifically, the last year’s wide deployment of 5G is expected to augment connectivity and therefore bring about a new IoT adoption round for business, public and home automation. Therefore, it is too early to draw the line when it comes to the value the internet of things can provide for business processes and employees’ safety and productivity.