State Of The IoT: Why So Many Business Leaders Are Paying Attention

Of all the emerging technologies that companies are contending with, the Internet of Things (IoT) is what’s keeping business leaders up at night. In fact, according to a new survey by Forbes Insights, IoT is ranked as the most important technology initiative by senior executives; more important than artificial intelligence and robotics, among many others.
Given all the speculation around IoT, these numbers aren’t entirely a surprise. Gartner recently suggested that as many as 3.1 billion IoT devices could already be in use by businesses today, and by 2020, that number could more than double to 7.6 billion connected devices.
 
Others suggest even higher numbers. IHS Technology believes 30 billion devices could be in play by 2020, and by 2025, the number could top 75 billion. Even using the more conservative figures, the business impact of IoT will be profound. AT Kearney estimates IoT could impact 6% of the global economy, and that more than half will be driven by disruption, where revenue will be shifted from one player to another.
 
Click here to download the State of the IoT report
 
With so much at stake, companies everywhere are starting to think seriously about IoT and how they can leverage it for their business. In industrial sectors like manufacturing and transportation, IoT has the potential to help improve efficiency and reduce supply chain costs. In more commercial sectors like healthcare and financial services, it could help companies gather new data and improve the customer experience.
 
The Future Is Now
 
Despite these benefits and all the recent talk about IoT, it’s not as if executives only recently discovered its potential. The technology has been top-of-mind for some time. In fact, IoT peaked at the top of Gartner’s famous Hype Cycle curve back in July of 2014.
 
At the time, a number of people were saying it was going to be a game changer. In fact, Daniel Burrus, a well-known technology forecaster and innovation expert, said that IoT was the one technology trend “that’s going to give us the most disruption as well as the most opportunity over the next five years.”
 
Fast forward to today and we’re starting to see some results from all this hype. According to the Forbes Insights study, many companies are already leveraging IoT technology and many others are ramping up their efforts. Eleven percent of respondents said that IoT programs are already a major contributor to their businesses. Another 40% said they had significant IoT programs in operation, and 36% said they were operating pilot programs. Only 13% said they were still in the planning stages, which makes it clear businesses are taking IoT seriously.
 
The Race Is On
 
But, even with all this momentum, when looking at where companies stand with IoT development, executive enthusiasm is a bit more muted. More than 50% of executives say that when it comes to IoT deployment, they are in the middle of the pack, or on par with most of their peers in IoT development. Only a small minority—19%—see themselves as either ahead of their peers or pioneers when it comes to these technologies. The rest, 28%, admit they’re followers.
 
Additionally, when respondents in the Forbes Insights study were asked about the success of their company’s current IoT initiatives, feelings were lukewarm, with 51% ranking their success as a neutral three on a five-point scale. Thirty-nine percent said they were succeeding to some degree, and only 3% said their programs were exceeding expectations.
 
IoT Is Now A Reality That Can’t Be Ignored
 
What does this all mean? Companies see IoT as an important emerging technology with the potential to give them an important competitive advantage now and in the near future. Yet, while they’re investing resources and getting results, most don’t feel they’ve separated themselves from their peers.
 
For those who haven’t identified IoT as an important part of their strategies, or are on the fence, the climb is even steeper. The longer companies delay, though, the further behind they’ll fall. The exponential nature of technologies like IoT intensifies the problem. The speed of change isn’t linear, it’s compounded by previous advancements. As the number of connected devices continues to accelerate, the pressure to leverage the IoT’s capabilities and benefits will intensify, putting laggards in a position that may eventually be indefensible. More advanced competitors will widen the gap, quickly creating significant differentiation that will jeopardize the relevance of slow movers.
 
The message for executives is clear. Predictions about the importance of IoT are starting to pan out. IoT is, and will continue to be, massively disruptive. Those who are already experimenting with IoT need to keep up the momentum, and those who aren’t, need to get in the game—soon—or they risk complete disruption.
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