What's Driving Growth in the IoT Market?
There's been more to the digital workplace over the past two years than collaboration and communication. Considerable development has also taken place in data-driven technologies for both the home and the workplace through the Internet of Things (IoT) and, in particular, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT).
There is no better way of gauging that development than looking at the evolution of the IoT sensors market, which according to a recent Fact.MR report is expected to grow by 20% every year until 2032 and jump in value from $27.4 billion to $173 billion.
The Factors Accelerating IoT Adoption
COVID-19 and the change in work practices over the past two years have accelerated change across industries. Steve Goetz, IBM VP and senior partner who serves as the global industry leader for telco and media for IBM Consulting, said the pandemic brought into sharp focus the importance and value of being connected.
As such, one big driver of the demand for IoT has been the need for better integration in sectors that depend on sensor-based measurements and monitoring systems. These industries are expected to drive the expansion of IoT well into the future.
Industry 4.0, aka the fourth industrial revolution that is cyber-physically transforming manufacturing, is also expected to benefit the IoT market. For instance, at Accenture, 60% of manufacturing operations are now interconnected with IoT sensors.
Adding to the mix is the convergence of technology such as AI, ML and connectivity pushing growth across all areas, with 5G facilitating connectivity across all devices, inside and outside the enterprise. For instance, there is accelerated adoption of IoT as a way to help pivot the reduced workforce to higher-value activities by leveraging automation, data insights and AI — all powered by edge data.
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Current economic conditions are requiring companies have a sharp focus on productivity improvements — which is an area where IoT can help. For instance, IoT can play a pivotal role in accelerating workforce training and upskilling. Companies can now utilize AR for immersive virtual walk-through, learning and simulation of processes with 2D and 3D visualizations based on the real-time data pulled from IoT devices embedded in equipment and machines to help with maintenance, repair and operations.
“IoT provides real-time visibility and remote access and, over time, it can provide data that can be leveraged to enable better predictability and planning capacity to provide a more seamless management of hybrid working patterns and improved user experience,” Goetz said.
In a sector that was already facing a lack of skilled labor pre-COVID-19, these capabilities can help save the future of manufacturing for many small and medium-sized companies.
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The global closures that happened as a result of the pandemic had a long-lasting effect on the economy. They also helped create a sense of urgency for leaders to contingency plan for such a high level of disruption.
“I believe this wake-up call will speed up how we leverage the capabilities of IIoT,” said Ryan Alford, founder and CEO of the Glenwood Springs, Colo.-based Engineering Design Group.
IIoT is often perceived as a way to improve safety and efficiencies, reduce costs and, more generally, improve production. It's spawned buzzwords like factory automation, auto-replenishment, predictive maintenance and asset tracking. These are all wonderful use cases for IIoT, but they do not fully embrace a pandemic and post-pandemic economy.
“We are all still working with customers, vendors and partners who are at home due to a mild COVID-19 illness of a family member,” Alford said. “Whether the family as a whole is quarantining, or they are taking care of a child, it's become the new normal.”
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The result is that companies are starting to look deeper at what can be done to minimize downtime. Alford said organizations are already embracing important hardware and firmware capabilities such as over-the-air (OTA) updates, which allow the manufacturer to deploy feature enhancements or bug patches to devices that have already been set up and are actively being used by the consumer.
“As we shift to the post-Covid world, we're still going to see IoT technologies enable things like factory automation, predictive maintenance and asset management,” he said. “But there will be more creative approaches to how we can leverage IoT to prevent companies from grinding to a halt the next time there is a global crisis."
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IoT Risks and Security
Organizations dealing with highly sensitive data have been concerned about data security in a remote environment. To help safeguard against leaks, many have been quick to adopt IoT devices and wearables, underscoring a real-world application of the smart workplace concept.
“With IoT becoming an enterprise technology in addition to an at-home luxury, organizations will start looking to build the necessary infrastructure to ingest and unify this data for actionable insights. That's where unified communications tools come in,” said Harshvendra Soin, global chief people officer at Alpharetta, Ga.-based Tech Mahindra.
There's no doubt, according to Srinivas Loke, VP of product management at Santa Clara, Calif.-based connected device security company Ordr, that IoT in the age of Covid raises the stakes for asset visibility and security.
These devices are proliferating, designed without security in mind, often run outdated operating systems and cannot be secured via traditional security means (like an endpoint agent). They are also often onboarded and deployed by different stakeholders within the organization — device owners, facilities, IT teams.
“You can’t secure what you don’t know about, so it’s critical to have real-time visibility into what’s actually connected to the network and identify the risks they bring,” Loke said.
Hybrid and remote work models add to the IoT management and security complexity. Critical IoT and OT devices that are essential to the business, for example medical devices in healthcare and control systems within manufacturing, are still operating on-premises. But users and their managed devices are moving to the home.
This means that security and IT teams managing IoT devices need broad asset visibility in devices across on-premises networks as well as remote office networks in order to fully identify and manage their risks. This will be the new model moving forward, as organizations maintain hybrid work models.