What COVID-19 and the quest for ROI mean for the IoT market

What COVID-19 and the quest for ROI mean for the IoT market

With greater use of AI expected in IoT implementations

Credit: 149818655 © Thamrongpat Theerathammakorn

At least a third of organisations are likely to have reduced their spend on Internet of Things (IoT) since the global wave of lockdowns prompted by COVID-19, but a far greater proportion is actively increasing its spend in the technology.

This is according to findings from a recent multi-country study by industry analyst firm Gartner, which showed 47 per cent of respondents indicated their organisations plan to increase their investments in the area of IoT, largely in an effort to reduce costs.

By comparison, the study found that 35 per cent of respondent organisations had reduced their investments in IoT.

One reason behind the increase, according to Gartner, is that although organisations may have a limited history with IoT, the pre-existing implementers of such technology are able to produce a predictable return on investment (ROI) within a specified timeframe. 

“They use key performance indicators (KPIs) to track their business outcomes and for most of them they also specify a time frame for financial payback of their IoT investments, which is on the average three years,” Benoit Lheureux, Gartner research vice president, said. 

Additionally, as IoT investments are relatively new for many businesses, most companies have plenty of “low hanging fruit” cost-saving opportunities to grasp, such as predictive-maintenance on commercial and industrial assets like elevators or turbines, the analyst firm suggested. 

Moreover, Gartner predicts that by 2023 a third of companies that have already implemented IoT will also have implemented artificial intelligence (AI) in conjunction with at least one IoT project.

This trend is occurring in part due to the adoption of digital twins — a digital replica of a physical asset — in the context of the enforcement of safety measures in the wake of the pandemic, which has fuelled the adoption of AI, often in conjunction with IoT, in the enterprise.

Indeed, 25 per cent of organisations indicated they are favoring automation through remote access and zero-touch management, while 23 per cent are choosing procedure compliance — safe automation measures — in order to reduce COVID-19 safety concerns. 

An example of such usage, according to Gartner, might include organisations monitoring work areas using AI-enabled analysis of live video feeds to help enforce safe social distancing compliance in high-traffic areas.

This comes as 31 per cent of survey respondents indicate they would use digital twin technology to improve their employee or customer safety, as a result of COVID-19.

The survey showed that 27 per cent of companies plan to use digital twins as autonomous equipment, robots or vehicles. 

“Digital twins can help companies recognise equipment failures before they stall production, allowing repairs to be made early or at less cost,” Lheureux said. “Or a company can use digital twins to automatically schedule the repair of multiple pieces of equipment in a manner that minimises impact to operations.”

Gartner expects that by 2023, one-third of mid-to-large-size companies that implemented IoT will have implemented at least one digital twin associated with a COVID-19-motivated use case.

Gartner’s findings come as fellow industry analyst firm Forrester Research suggests that the sheer number of connectivity options available for IoT networks will create chaos in the coming year, because there is, as yet, no single connectivity option that meets every use case for IoT.

As such, businesses should expect to navigate a landscape that includes proprietary low-power options like Zigbee, unlicensed standards like Bluetooth, both public and private varieties of 5G, Wi-Fi, and even satellite in order to make deployments work.

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