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IoT just got serious

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Morten Illum, vice-president: EMEA at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, explains why IoT is a big deal.
After Mobile World Congress, we’re once again asking ourselves the same question: “When will the Internet of Things really hit the big time?”
But a quick look around tells us that IoT is already making a difference to our lives. Connected smart meters wirelessly track our domestic energy usage, while smart watches and smart cars are playing a small but influential role in the wider IoT movement. And this is even before we get started on connected home technologies, ranging from security sensors to connected light bulbs and even smart toasters.
If we accept that IoT’s moment is indeed yet to come, then I’m glad to say we can put a date on it at last. In our new international study launching today “The Internet of Things, Today and Tomorrow” we asked 3 100 execs from 20 countries about IoT.
The research found a whole range/host of interesting ideas and attitudes, but it also told us that 2019 will be IoT’s breakthrough year. In fact 85% of businesses plan to start using IoT technologies by 2019. So put a note in your diary.
What else did the study find? Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly:
* IoT is over-delivering. Yes, you heard correctly–our survey discovered an ‘expectations dividend’: the real-world benefits gained from IoT are exceeding original expectations in all areas. In other words, believe the hype (and how many times can you say that about a new technology?).
* ROI is looking good, very good. Four-fifths of companies that use IoT technology report seeing an increase in business efficiency, while the average return on investment from an IoT deployment is 34%.
* A lot of people claim to know what IoT means. But few really know. A massive 98% of those surveyed think they have the true definition, but there’s no consensus. Keep reading: we’ll come back to this in a moment.
* IoT has some hurdles to clear. IoT has proven its value, but barriers still exist. Cost of implementation (50%), maintenance (44%) and integration of legacy technologies (43%) are the top three. But there is hope: technologies are already available that both cut infrastructure costs and smooth the integration process.
* IoT brings incredible opportunities, but also credible threats. Alarmingly, 84% of organisations that use IoT have experienced an IoT-related security breach. As IoT continues to grow, businesses need to take steps to protect their networks and devices. Without gaining visibility of IoT activities, organisations are leaving themselves open to attack.

Things vary across regions
Arguably Europe and the wider EMEA region have a more conservative approach towards IoT today. Europe, the Middle East and Africa showing a 50% take up of IoT technology, compared to 60% in APAC and 66% in the Americas. This could be from a lack of preparedness and a lack of willingness to explore IoT’s benefits: Currently, 17% of EMEA respondents claim their IT infrastructure isn’t ready to support IoT yet – nearly double that of the Americas – but 82% of EMEA companies plan to adopt IoT technologies by 2019. So there’s still a little way to go yet to take full advantage of IoT.

IoT has already made its mark
Perhaps this year’s Mobile World Congress will help organisations in the EMEA region wake up and smell the IoT-scented coffee. MWC is the perfect place to see IoT’s successes come to life: from Ford’s ten-million selling in-car SYNC system, featuring an automated emergency services link in the event of a crash, to the flood of healthcare applications such as Boston Children’s Hospital’s revolutionary use of smartphones to help detect and fight respiratory disease.

This means business
Talking about IoT’s achievements brings us neatly to what IoT means. You’ll remember from our survey that a single, coherent definition of IoT has so far eluded companies across the world, so who better to give the final word than Kevin Ashton. A renowned tech pioneer, Ashton coined the phrase ‘Internet of Things’ back in 1999. Little did he know how his new phrase would be used and abused.
In his new eBook ‘Making Sense of IoT’, commissioned by Aruba, Ashton offers this as a definition: “What is the Internet of Things? It is not connecting everyday objects like toasters and refrigerators to the Internet. Products like these exist, but it is hard to see why… What defines the Internet of Things is data capture… The ‘Internet of Things’ means sensors connected to the Internet and behaving in an Internet-like way by making open, ad hoc connections, sharing data freely and allowing unexpected applications.”
In short, IoT is now serious stuff. Just spare a thought for those poor smart toasters.