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The rise of IoT continues as number of intelligent enterprises double since 2017

(Image credit: Shutterstock/Bakhtiar Zein)

In recent years, the Internet of Things (IoT) has transformed from technology jargon, into a force of success across a range of industries. By 2020, there will be more than 20 billion devices connected to the IoT, according to research consultancy Gartner. Additionally, within that projection, they estimate more than 8 billion of those connected devices will be within the enterprise space – up from about 3 billion in 2017. This growth of IoT devices has been harnessed across enterprises to deliver improved visibility and a wealth of data that can be collected and analysed automatically by computers to help humans make better decisions based on actionable insights. As these new technologies continue to transform the front line of business, real-time data-driven signals at the edge of operations are, in turn, empowering front-line workers with the right information to optimise actions and outcomes.

While there is little doubt that IoT will continue to spread, it seems for many organisations taking the next step in the digital transformation journey has proved difficult. Findings from Zebra’s second annual Intelligent Enterprise Index reveal large numbers of businesses are beginning to acknowledge the value of leveraging IoT strategies and solutions as a core component for driving future growth across their organisations. The Index is a global survey that measures where companies are on the journey to becoming an “intelligent enterprise” – one that connects the physical and digital worlds to drive innovation through real-time guidance, data-powered environments and collaborative mobile workflows.

Zebra’s Intelligent Enterprise Index brings to light that by scoring more than 75 points on the overall Index, the number of companies defined as an “intelligent enterprises” doubled to 10 per cent in 2018. This illustrates a significant year-over-year growth of IoT deployment and investment; organisations show a new-found momentum and appear to expect less resistance to adoption. They increasingly acknowledge IoT solutions as a core component for driving future performance. With appetites becoming stronger and competition growing fiercer, people are shifting toward adoption.

Empowered workforce

IoT investment is up and resistance to adoption is down. The Index reveals for those enterprises surveyed, their average annual IoT spend is up 4 per cent year-over-year. And 86 per cent of the companies expect that number to increase in the next 1-2 years, with nearly half anticipating investment growth of 11-20 per cent. As employees become more receptive to new technologies, the number of companies that expect resistance to their IoT plans moving forward has dropped from 75 per cent in 2017 to 64 per cent this year.

A clear advantage of IoT adoption is that enterprises are successfully driving a performance edge with real-time guidance. In fact, 52 per cent of respondents globally say information from their IoT solutions is shared with employees in real or near-real time. This is up 37 per cent from last year’s Index, underscoring the increased need for collaborative mobile workflows. In EMEA alone, this figure is 47 per cent.

By equipping workers with real-time guidance about both customers and inventory, front-line employees have more freedom to engage with both physical stock and in person with customers, whilst offering faster, more efficient service. As expectations from customers change across industries, deploying these IoT solutions ensure workers can provide a seamless service, whilst collecting information which can go on to provide organisations with deeper insights into their operations. 

In addition, two-thirds of those surveyed have established a plan on how to organise and analyse their data. This is up 10 per cent from last year. Real-time analytics (66 per cent) and security (63 per cent) are reported as the most prevalent elements of a company’s data management plan. Notably, EMEA organisations empower their employees with actionable data as 27 per cent of the EMEA respondents say they provide insights to the front-line workers. This reflects the need for innovation, technologies and real-time data at the edge of the enterprise.

By giving workers increased visibility, it allows them access to additional information that may have been unattainable before. In turn, this leads to quicker decisions, increased efficiency and ultimately, happier customers and a smoother supply chain.

Creating business ecosystems

With overall adoption seemingly on the up, organisations that are still falling behind must realise that they do not have to embark on their digital transformation journey alone. Digital transformation can be intimidating; implementation can be widespread and can result in disruption to operations and even push back from employees who do not want to adjust to new technologies. However, companies demonstrate a greater reliance on a solution ecosystem. Forty per cent of those surveyed report using a strategic partner to manage their entire IoT solution, up from 21 per cent from 2017. This dependence on third-party expertise and management of IoT processes is a key indicator that an enterprise is committed to accelerating data intelligence and adopting IoT.

The future is IoT

IoT will continue to grow in sophistication and prevalence in the years to come. From smart plants to in-store smart assistants, the future will be connected. An intelligent enterprise will embrace new technology to lead innovation and in turn, grow its business and performance edge. By creating real- time visibility, enterprises will become closer to an intelligent connected future.

Operating as a truly “intelligent enterprise” means investing in new technologies and leveraging the data from these solutions to better serve customers and workers at every stage of the journey. By committing to these criteria, organisations can ultimately build a stronger foundation that will help them remain relevant in today’s competitive business landscape. 

Richard Hudson, VP General Manager EMEA, Zebra Technologies
Shutterstock/Bakhtiar Zein

Richard Hudson
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.