In my opinion, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Internet of Things (IoT) Business Index 2017 is the most credible research produced so far charting global industry progress in IoT. It follows the EIU’s inaugural IoT Index that ARM sponsored in 2013, and the latest findings show a steady maturing of IoT over the last three years, with companies moving from research and planning into early deployments. It also tells us that more than half of company executives now see IoT as a key enabler of their company’s long term success.
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While we know that we are relatively early on the IoT journey, the report suggests one in five companies are now moving out of planning and into rolling out IoT services and products. One in 12 are so advanced it already regards IoT as integral to its operations.
The IoT report
This 2017 EIU IoT report was co-sponsored by ARM and IBM as we wanted independent confirmation of the state of the market. The researchers surveyed 825 global company leaders from a range of sectors from banking to health and energy to infrastructure. More than half of the respondents were C-suite executives with a significant proportion working for firms with annual turnovers of more than $500 million.
The findings tell us there is continuing strong investment in a smarter future, with more than half of the companies surveyed (55%) expecting to make cost savings or generate revenues from IoT products or services by 2020. This is backed up by the boardroom barometer which indicates a positive outlook: two-thirds of respondents reported that their IoT strategy was discussed at board level at least once a month.
IoT is driving business
Confidence in IoT as a business driver now extends to sectors such as construction and agriculture where smart, connected technologies are still in the research phase. And, at the most advanced end, in areas such as IT, technology and retail, the survey highlights a focus on data management and analysis as a key driver of IoT plans by more than one in three companies (38%).
While progress is good, it’s worth acknowledging there are challenges. By comparing the findings from the first EIU report carried out in 2013, the survey tells us that most respondents feel their companies would have been further down the path to significant IoT rollouts by now. The survey gives us a clue as to why that is; emphasizing concerns over security and privacy, and the perception that IoT infrastructure is expensive to deploy and manage.
Addressing the challenges of IoT
These concerns of IoT are real. Taking the issue of security, we have seen recent examples of how hackers can take advantage of unprotected device networks (Mirai Botnet attack, 2016). For that reason, the applications processor — the heart of the chip — must be architected for safety with secure and non-secure world separation that keeps valuable assets such as encryption keys and network credentials fully protected. There are also software requirements that give rise to a trusted environment. The general conclusion is that the historic, and in some cases current, attitude of “deploy and forget” is not acceptable in the IoT world. All devices must be protected by robust and flexible security and be tied into a service enabling lifetime management of updates whether they are dealing with threats or capability improvements.
Learn more about the future of IoT
The EIU’s conclusions underline what we see in the market: that IoT is highly strategic to the future of nearly all enterprises and it is progressing steadily in key areas of the business and consumer worlds. It is a ubiquitous technology trend with the potential to transform how millions of companies operate and the survey findings show us confidence is high, investment is continuing and bigger deployments are starting. The time is now to architect a world with a trillion connected devices seamlessly unified in a smart and secure way. This will be a world where anything and everything is possible.
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