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How IoT is driving innovation

(Image credit: Image Credit: Chesky / Shutterstock)

Many talk about and plan for an Internet of Things (IoT) future, but they don’t truly understand the true power of its capabilities. Predictions suggest that IoT will have as much impact on human lives, governments, businesses and institutions as the harnessing of water for steam power, the discovery of electricity and the computer age had on the generations before us. In other words, IoT will, and is already beginning to, transform the world around us in a way that will impact our daily lives.   

We plan for a future where a worldwide network of sensors will one day give enterprises across the globe a new way of operating. Sensors will be connected via wireless technology to computers that then analyse the data, offering more insight and visibility into how people, devices, and systems are working together. We call this the Intelligent Enterprise.   

Consumers are poised and ready for such IoT innovation – eagerly buying smart and connected products like washing machines and thermostats. However, while they tactfully plan for an IoT future, they’ve failed to realise it’s already arrived. IoT is already impacting and reshaping the enterprise landscape and to stay on top of the present and prepare for the future, enterprises must figure out how to connect and manage these devices and networks. Leveraging the power of these partnerships, organisations need to identify the best tactics to benefit business processes and create new experiences for their employees, customers, partners and all stakeholders.   

The new reality is that access to real-time data – from people, processes and devices through sensors connected to the internet – is revolutionising the way we interact with each other and our world. This visibility into what is going on, right now, is game-changing, and we are already seeing innovation across all of the core sectors.   

The Internet of Things (IoT) is happening now 

The idea of connecting the physical and digital worlds to drive innovation creates a more intelligent enterprise landscape. It requires businesses across industry sectors and market sizes to convene and partner with vendors, government, customers and academic institutions to come up with agreed-upon standard practices and guidelines so that all enterprises can connect with each other and become more intelligent.   

Many industries have already begun the move to a more intelligent enterprise, for instance: 

In the trucking industry, 30 percent of the average truck on U.S. roads is filled – with air. When humans load trucks, they can be inefficient. But if sensors are placed inside semi-tractor trailer trucks, workers monitoring the packing will learn how efficiently the truck has been loaded. If the amount of air transported was cut to zero and trucks were fully packed, the number of trucks on U.S. roads would drop by 10 percent, an incredible cost savings for shipping companies and a substantial reduction of carbon emissions.   

The global Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) market is predicted to reach $933.62 billion by 2025—up from $109 billion in 2016, per Grand View Research. The adoption of IIoT models has grown worldwide, stemming from the technology's ability to reduce costs and increase productivity, process automation, and time-to-market. 

In the retail industry, four percent of potential revenue is lost every year because stores can’t satisfy customer demand for specific products in their inventory. What’s popular sells out, and empty or low-stocked shelves are lost opportunities to make a sale. But, if every item were tagged and tracked and restock orders were transferred in real-time to retail employees and warehouses, retailers would be able to capture a significant amount of that lost revenue. With average profit margins of two percent for most retailers, even a marginal improvement can result in major growth. 

However, per the 2017 Retail Vision Study (opens in new tab) by Zebra Technologies, 70 percent of retail decision makers are ready to make changes to adopt IoT, while 72 percent of retailers plan to reinvent their supply chains with real-time visibility enabled by automation, sensors and analytics.    

In the healthcare industry, the complex network of individual players – doctors, nurses, hospitals, insurance companies – makes consolidating, sharing, and analysing medical data extremely challenging. But, projects across the globe are attempting to use sensors and data analysis to improve information gathering and processing and ensure better care for patients.    

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death globally, leading to 17.3 million fatalities annually. That number is expected to rise to more than 23.6 million by 2030. New technologies can change those outcomes for patients.    

We may also see exciting steps toward wearables and sensors in healthcare, which may soon be able to automatically transmit health data directly to doctors and therefore eliminate the need to manually enter the information into a system. This will decrease the number of face-to-face doctor visits and free up healthcare physicians to spend more quality time with each patient.

Even entertainment is changing. If you want to see what IoT can do, just look at an NFL player today. Two nickel-sized sensors embedded in each player’s shoulder pads communicate more than 15 times a second with 20 radio receivers placed throughout each NFL stadium. 

Data on every player is reported live, in real-time. The sensors track how fast players are running, as well as the distance they travel and their acceleration and deceleration, among other things. Computers analyse and display the information live over game video. Football fans watching a game on screen can see the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, giving fans new visibility into the game with details that have never before been tracked.  

These are just a few of the ways in which the Intelligent Enterprise is already and will continue to make an impact on nearly every industry. A sensor may seem like a small device, but married with troves of data and the ability to understand and act on it brings a new wave of technological innovation and creativity to our world and improves the lives of people who live and work in it.  

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Richard Hudson, Vice President and General Manager EMEA, Zebra

Image Credit: Chesky / Shutterstock

Richard Hudson is the Vice President and General Manager for EMEA. He provides strategic leadership to build and maintain Zebra’s position within key markets such as retail and transportation and logistics.