The Internet of Things Is Late, But Is Finally Arriving

September 5, 2023  |  Mark Hillary

Sometimes it feels like a broken record when I write about the Internet of Things (IoT). It is an idea that has been around for some time and yet in many regions of the world it has yet to reach a tipping point – it often remains ‘possible’ rather than an important business tool.

This may be because many regions have taken a long time to deploy 5G connectivity. I’m based in Brazil and 5G is ubiquitous around São Paulo where I live, but when I visit my home country – the UK – I still struggle to get any 5G connection.

The availability of 5G is really important for the IoT to work well. This is because the connection is more stable – there are no dropouts and reconnections – and many more sensors can be in a single location. So if you want to monitor an office or residential building and this requires hundreds of sensors monitoring doors, windows, heat and light, then it can become tricky.

We all know this problem because most of us have been in a large crowd at some point. It might have been at a music or sports event, but trying to get a data connection on your phone without 5G or wifi can be a nightmare at large events – it’s the same for a large concentration of sensors.

There has been a wave of good news for IoT recently though.

This analysis in Information Age details why IoT has taken longer than expected to take off. There are some interesting ideas here, including the idea that devices need to be tied to one network – that may have been true for phones, but should never have been considered normal for sensors.

Information Age predicts that what we will actually see is new use cases, even new business models emerging. They give the example of Costa Coffee, which has created their automated barista machines using IoT principles. Instead of taking out expensive leases on new coffee shops, Costa can extend their reach by installing the automated coffee machines in petrol stations or convenience stores. Everything needed to keep the machine running smoothly can be remotely monitored thanks to the onboard sensors.

Entrepreneur magazine recently featured a similar article exploring IoT developments and suggesting that the revolution is just around the corner. The Entrepreneur analysis suggests that there is a confluence of technology taking place that will benefit IoT: “With access to low-cost, low-power sensors, new levels of connectivity, cloud computing platforms, machine learning and analytics, IoT is already combining state-of-the-art technology into something new and exciting. It is certain that IoT will grow and that technologists will do well by staying ahead of the curve. But it remains to be seen how fast and for how long that growth will continue. It might just be that IoT is still like the sleeping giant which will move the world when it wakes up.”

I agree with this analysis. The possibility for IoT has been around for many years. I wrote about it in this book that IBA Group published. However, many problems – such as network operators applying old business models to new technology – have prevented the adoption and use of IoT sensors.

The really interesting examples, such as Costa Coffee, show that what we may see is entirely new business models proving the concept – rather than traditional businesses adopting IoT principles first.

Coffee machines have been around for decades, but they were usually awful. Poor quality coffee, the same mix for everyone, and they were often broken. What Costa has demonstrated is that an automated coffee machine can know each customer individually, can create high quality coffee, and can sense when there is a problem and can fix many issues in real-time without intervention.

I think the IoT is far from dead – it just needs entrepreneurs to prove the model before larger companies finally wake up.

IBA Group has extensive experience with sensors and the IoT across many industries. For more information and case studies please click here.

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