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Viewpoint | 03 Nov 2020

Internet of Things: A technology for today, not just the future

Anne Sheehan, Business Director, Vodafone UK, argues that it would be a mistake for businesses to think Internet of Things (IoT) technology is too futuristic to be of interest today - many firms are already reaping the benefits.

The concept of the Internet of Things has been around for years, but there still seem to be several misconceptions about the technology that I want to address.

Many might assume this is a technology that allows a company to work in a different way. And they’d be right. But working in a different way doesn’t necessarily mean deferring return on investment (ROI). IoT offers insights that can help businesses make better decisions, launch new products and services, and introduce new processes. This is obviously useful for the future, but the benefits can be felt almost immediately.

According to Vodafone’s IoT Spotlight report, 67% of UK businesses who have implemented the technology have already seen a rise in revenues, while 76% have said market share is up. Overall, 87% of the UK respondents to the research said there have been tangible returns on the investment in IoT to date.

Today, businesses are going through a very difficult period. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies to look at the way they operate, and in many cases, reassess how they spend money. So for those who believe IoT is a technology that only pays off in the long run, this might discourage investment. I believe that would be a mistake, because IoT has the potential to be truly transformative today. It could even help your business survive.

One of our customers, SES Water, is using IoT in a very interesting way.

They installed specialist digital water meters, sensors and acoustic loggers on underground mains water pipes to collect data on low pressure or other network abnormalities, as well as detect the precise location of leaks. Not only can these leaks be detected faster, potentially reducing damage to property, they can be fixed faster. This reduces inconvenience and saves SES Water money.

It’s a good example of IoT offering tangible ROI in the short-term, not in some nebulous future.

The insights that come from these connected sensors enable SES Water to make operational improvements and enhance its reputation as an environmentally responsible company. And who knows? Their growing expertise in this area could help it develop new services and products.

Another excellent example of the immeditate potential of IoT concerns product recall.

Vodafone research and development engineers recently built a prototype recall system that will help household appliance manufacturers monitor the performance of devices. In the worst-case scenario, these devices can be shut down remotely should safety be compromised.

The prototype system will enable manufacturers to notify customers automatically if the product has to be recalled – a process which could be difficult if the product itself has been sold on by the original owner.

Again, this is not about a long-term investment for IoT, but an example of how technology can solve a problem today should a potentially dangerous scenario occur. The products are now safer for the customer, with the manufacturer able to meet regulatory commitments simply and efficiently.

So the main myth we need to bust about IoT is that its benefits will be felt only in the long term. The truth is that it is a powerful tool to help companies transform the way they do business today.

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