Covid-19 has demonstrated the opportunity for Internet of Things (IoT) technology in a wide variety of businesses.
In a world where we no longer physically meet or work with others as often as before, there has been an increase in the need for critical insights to be delivered rapidly via connected devices and high-speed networks.
Whatever industry you are in, IoT technology has the power to reimagine your business.
In fact, according to Vodafone’s IoT Spotlight Report – which surveyed 1,600 businesses globally across multiple industries and markets – 87pc of business owners say their core business strategy has changed for the better as a result of adopting IoT.
Here, we speak to Colin Barrett, IoT Country Manager at Vodafone Ireland, to find out more about the opportunities IoT can unlock for businesses.Smarter choices
First things first, what exactly is IoT?
“For me, the Internet of Things is not a technology or a product,” says Colin, who has worked with Vodafone for six years and has a career in the technology industry spanning 20 years. “It’s defined by the advantage that can be achieved when a collection of devices are inter-connected to a network, and become ‘smart’.”
That advantage can be various things for different people or businesses.
“However, the common factor is the criticality of data, and IoT makes it available. When you combine these connected devices with automated systems, you can gather information, remotely execute actions, perform analysis, and create actionable insights that bring value to people or organisations.”
Not only can IoT give businesses access to crucial data, but Colin says it also offers the ability to identify and isolate exactly the information you need at all times in real-time.
“This information can be used to drive cost advantages for businesses, such as tracking valuable assets, or performing proactive predictive maintenance of machines before costly problems manifest. Information from IoT can also introduce operational efficiencies.
“Businesses can become adaptable, open to change, and capable of responding more efficiently to their own customers’ demands.”
Despite the pandemic bringing about uncertainty for companies, the Vodafone IoT Spotlight Report found that 77pc of businesses actually accelerated IoT projects during the Covid-19 crisis.
Colin says, “Alongside the big advantages IoT brings a business, such as lowering costs or increasing revenue, what we are witnessing now is the power this technology has as a catalyst for business resilience.
“As an example, the pandemic forced many businesses into a remote work environment at very little notice, which was difficult where physical on-site access to machines was needed.
“IoT allows employees to monitor and control equipment remotely, by accessing machines through bi-directional IoT sensors, and maintaining their functionality.”
Colin says the pandemic has been an eye-opener. “Businesses have had to become ‘future-fit’, so that they would be ready to adapt to new events, such as a shift in customer demand, new regulations, or a sudden societal change.
“This means that businesses using IoT are not just investing in technology. They are investing to transform their operating model. This is a strategic move that is putting them ahead of the competition.”
According to Colin, a key success factor for IoT solutions is ultimately tied to performance, which is dependent on how quickly devices can communicate with each other. For example, 5G, in particular, is driving change in IoT.
“5G is a big shift forward from previous generations of mobile connectivity such as 4G, because of faster and more reliable connectivity,” explains Colin.
However, Colin says there is much more to 5G than simply higher speeds, “5G has the potential to transform business, consumer and societal experiences. It will drive increased ubiquity of IoT devices. With 4G, you could connect 100,000 devices per km2. But with 5G, you can now connect 1,000,000 devices per km2. This is a gamechanger for ‘smart cities’ IoT.”
Colin says that 5G can bring about more innovation in many industries.
“A great example of how 5G can drive innovation for industry is through mobile private networks (MPN). An MPN is like a mobile network dedicated to one customer, separate to national deployments.
“In manufacturing, for example, 5G and MPN are driving rapid innovation. Sensors and activators in the factory collect vast amounts of data from components on the move. We have worked with Irish manufacturing clients to implement 5G MPN to support automated robotics, and real-time data analysis on every facet of a factory’s operation.”
Colin adds, “Vodafone Ireland is actively engaged with numerous exciting organisations to deliver innovation through 5G and IoT, including remote drone operation to provide services, and MPN for autonomous vehicle driving.”
Vodafone IoT has also enabled Irish companies to go global. “We are fortunate that Vodafone Ireland’s IoT capabilities are underpinned by the breadth and investment in Vodafone’s industry-leading global IoT network. This means Irish businesses only need one Vodafone IoT SIM card, and their IoT devices can be deployed, or roam, anywhere in the world.
“Irish IoT customers across industries such as healthcare, agriculture, and fleet management have scaled their businesses into new international markets using our global network. One example is Kerry-based IoT service provider Net Feasa, which specialises in taking yards, ports and shipping companies through digital transformation.
“Net Feasa’s value proposition is dependent upon seamless global connectivity, as their IoT solution offers tracking of freight containers, rather than the truck, ship or train. This allows them to provide a single unified dataset that is consistent wherever the container is on its journey across the supply chain."
Vodafone’s global IoT network is enabling Net Feasa to offer their customers a new toolset for end-to-end, real-time, digitally-enabled tracking of vital goods anywhere around the world, from one single data silo.
For any company considering investing in IoT, Colin advises analysing the ways IoT could make the business agile and fit for the future.
“Particularly within the context of a competitive landscape. The global IoT industry is predicted to grow to 24 billion devices in 2030 and Irish IoT connections are expected to increase at 14pc compound annual growth over the coming years.
“Given this rate of pace, picking the right IoT partner is critical. IoT is for businesses of all sizes. Being able to rely on an experienced market-leader that can align capability to business outcomes is essential.”
Get started on your IoT journey at the link below.