There are a few surprises in UBM's 2018 State of the IoT report, including how many organizations are in search of a business use case.

James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer

July 20, 2018

3 Min Read
Image: Pixabay/Geralt

We've all heard bits of sage advice over the decades, some of which goes along the lines of, "If you don't look for something you'll never find it." Take your pick, if might have surfaced when you didn't even try to track down that lost homework assignment, or maybe it was the new job that you didn't really make an effort to find, or perhaps your search for true love was only half-hearted.

So, what does all this have to do with the Internet of Things?

Well, there was a nugget of data that stood out like a lump of coal in the recent UBM special report Internet of Things: Slow Start, Big Potential, a joint research effort that included  InformationWeek and InteropITX. Thirty-one percent of respondents said that one of the key barriers to using the IoT in their organization was "absence of a business use case."

I'm left to wonder, "Have you even looked?"

Forgive my cynicism, but looking through a list of industries where our respondents work, there aren't a heck of a lot that couldn't benefit from having their production machines, mobile devices, vehicles, and security and HVAC systems connected, feeding data to some department, whether it's the maintenance team, IT, or the C-suite. The next step would be to put into place workflows and alert systems so the organization could take action.

The five most common industries represented in the survey were business services, education, manufacturing, government, and financial services/banking. I'll acknowledge someone in "business services" like a small or mid-sized law firm might not have a lot of connected devices. But the rest? Managing IT equipment alone is a prime application for IoT, and any company that has a fleet of vehicles, a headquarters building, or a campus is a fit.

Alex Glaser, vice president of consulting firm Harbor Research, focuses on IoT adoption and technologies. He theorized that some organizations, particularly those in finance, utilize IoT concepts for connecting devices, but don't use the term, for example preferring "fintech" in the finance and banking realm.

For others, he added, "There's no excuse to be not looking at business cases for IoT."

Glaser said one of the sectors that has surprised him in terms of ready acceptance of IoT is healthcare. "I thought they would be late because of the regulatory issue but people are starting to find their way around it," he said in an interview.

I'll add that one application area that doesn't get a lot of public attention is the one that is near to the heart of InformationWeek readers: IT management. Unless your organization has gone 100% to the cloud or is stuck in the age of manual typewriters, you still have some sort of data center, even if it's a string of server closets.

Consider some of the other sectors where IoT would be a fit, like education with all those campuses and mobile devices, and government with even more buildings but also emerging applications. Glaser noted that he is seeing "a ton of activity" with IoT in city government, as municipalities apply IoT to transportation, public safety, citizen services, and other tasks. He even sees a movement toward "collapsing" municipal systems. For example, the camera networks designed to manage traffic also can support anti-crime applications such as shot spotting.

It's true that IoT isn't maturing as quickly as its advocates expected a few years ago, but you might be surprised by some of the benefits being delivered by IoT today in a range of sectors. Learn more in the report: Internet of Things: Slow Start, Big Potential.


About the Author(s)

James M. Connolly

Contributing Editor and Writer

Jim Connolly is a versatile and experienced freelance technology journalist who has reported on IT trends for more than three decades. He was previously editorial director of InformationWeek and Network Computing, where he oversaw the day-to-day planning and editing on the sites. He has written about enterprise computing, data analytics, the PC revolution, the evolution of the Internet, networking, IT management, and the ongoing shift to cloud-based services and mobility. He has covered breaking industry news and has led teams focused on product reviews and technology trends. He has concentrated on serving the information needs of IT decision-makers in large organizations and has worked with those managers to help them learn from their peers and share their experiences in implementing leading-edge technologies through such publications as Computerworld. Jim also has helped to launch a technology-focused startup, as one of the founding editors at TechTarget, and has served as editor of an established news organization focused on technology startups at MassHighTech.

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