By: George Kalebaila, Research Director for telecommunications, media, and Internet of Things (IoT) at International Data Corporation (IDC).
The enterprise remains wary of investment into the Internet of Things (IoT). There are key inhibitors to adoption that affect its efficiency, impact, and availability. This doesn’t mean that IoT isn’t on the cusp of widespread adoption in South Africa or that it will stay stuck in the grip of hype quicksand, it just means that both vendor and enterprise need stronger value propositions and provable business value to unlock its full potential.
One of the leading inhibitors of IoT adoption is, of course, cybersecurity. Most enterprises list this as their primary concern when considering IoT deployments, and they’re not wrong. The cybersecurity threat landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace and IoT devices are a popular hacking target. Fish tank temperature gauges, printers, and other seemingly innocuous IoT devices have already seen their vulnerabilities exploited with unpleasant results. Security is a priority.
Added to this is the reality that IoT is an emerging technology – the organization is still trying to establish how to get business value out of any potential IoT deployment. This is further impacted by weak value propositions from service providers as they are currently not speaking to a specific business or sector needs, vaguely pointing their IoT solutions in the direction of efficiencies and improved decision making. Service providers have yet to demonstrate that IoT will deliver value within their client’s specific environment. Organisations want and need tangible results that align to their business priorities.
Another issue that has impacted IoT, until recently, has been the high cost of connectivity. Particularly relevant within the South African space, connectivity has inhibited uptake and innovation. However, recent investments and deployments of low power wide area networks (LPWANs) have meant that IoT is poised to flourish. These LPWANs are optimized for low-cost IoT applications and are eroding the barriers that have slowed IoT adoption. Vodacom has shown strong leadership in this space, reporting 55,000 new IoT connections per month on its narrowband IoT network (NB-IoT) that are anchored on its LPWAN technologies.
Huawei and Microsoft are also heading the IoT charge in South Africa with their focused investment and solution development. Huawei has established an innovation and experience centre that’s designed to encourage technology development and capacity building in the ICT sector, and Microsoft Azure has been actively involved in the creation of IoT platforms that are open to local developers. The latter is focused on encouraging the development of new IoT applications and solutions within the local market and the company provides consulting and sales support to service providers around go-to-market strategies.
Most of the larger players in the IoT market are focusing on establishing IoT platforms that deliver end-to-end IoT solutions. These span device management, application development, integration and support, data management and analytics, security, go-to-market support, consulting and more. Dell EMC, AMD, and VMware have also created an open-access platform that allows for plug & play connectivity and the development of secure and scalable IoT solutions. There is a marked trend towards enabling development and innovation by providing service providers and vendors with the tools and access they need to enhance and drive the potential of IoT. The big guns are using these platforms and their deep enterprise IT experience to explore ways in which to differentiate themselves in the market. It’s worth noting, that this is the right time and opportunity for these vendors to use their unique vertical understanding and expertise to overcome one of the primary key inhibitors impacting on IoT uptake as a whole – sector relevance.
Ultimately, the IoT sector is starting to gain momentum as vendors, developers and service providers actively focus on the challenges that affect its adoption. IoT success depends on its ability to deliver business value and industry relevance while assuring organizations that it is secure enough to meet compliance mandates and internal protocols. IoT will ultimately flourish, but it still needs work.