IoT has entered the mainstream, according to the 2019 update of Vodafone’s annual IoT Barometer, with IoT adoption by companies now not a matter of if but when and how.
The 2019 report found that 34% of companies now use IoT, up from 29% in the previous report. What’s more, 74% of these adopters believe that within five years, companies that have not adopted IoT will have fallen behind their competitors.
It also seems that current adopters are using a wide range of connectivity options based on the particular requirements of different use cases. Although LTE and LTE-Advanced are used by 76% of current adopters, with over a third using WiFi, a quarter are already using low power wide area networks (LPWANs) such as LTE for Machines (LTE-M) and Narrow-Band IoT (NB-IoT).
According to Vodafone, “that’s reflective of the fact that licensed LPWANs are designed specifically for IoT use cases where only small amounts of data needs to be communicated. And the longer battery life they provide makes them a strong option for connecting sensors in remote or in accessible locations.”
Although 5G would not suit such low-power, low data use cases, the potential of the technology for IoT use cases in industry and elsewhere has long been recognized. Indeed, 52% of adopters say they are considering using 5G. According to Vodafone, the benefits of 5G that will drive further IoT adoption include improved security, the use of network slicing to separate traffic, the ability to tailor services to particular use cases, near-zero latency, and the realization of edge computing.
Michele Mackenzie, who leads Analysys Mason’s IoT and M2M Services research program, noted that 5G networks are initially likely to support relatively niche IoT use cases. “But the market will expand as coverage improves and 5G begins to deliver on its full promise: lower latency, higher speeds and greater reliability,” Mackenzie added.
In terms of adoption by industry, it comes as little surprise to find that transport and logistics reported the highest adoption rate at 45%, with a 15 percentage point increase compared to the previous year. Adoption has also been swift in the insurance sector as a relative newcomer to IoT, with a 34% adoption rate. Other key industries include healthcare, energy and utilities, the automotive sector, manufacturing and industry, and retail.
In terms of how IoT is being deployed, around 72% of adopters say IoT plays a critical part in their digital strategy, and digital transformation would be impossible without it. Analysys Mason thinks that in time, there will be potential IoT applications in almost all vertical markets.
“To understand how far we are along the IoT journey, it’s useful to make a comparison with cloud adoption,” said Mackenzie. “Only now, more than a decade after Amazon Web Services (AWS) was first offered as a commercial service, are we seeing truly widespread adoption of cloud services. IoT will probably require a similar timescale to become truly ‘business as usual.’”