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What is the internet of things?

Understanding the internet of things and what it means for enterprises and industries

Mobile operators globally are already paving the way to a massive adoption of the internet of things (IoT) in the coming years and some of them are already deploying network infrastructure to support IoT services.

The internet of things is the network of physical devices–including vehicles, buildings, home appliances, and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.

U.K.-based telecommunications group Vodafone recently announced plans to roll out narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) technology across multiple markets in 2017. The telco said that this technology would enable more low-cost devices to be connected to the internet, creating new market segments as manufacturers will be able to create connected devices that wholesale for just a few dollars by using NB-IoT. Vodafone and Huawei recently opened a lab in the U.K. dedicated to the development oft NB-IoT technologies.

French telco Orange is also engaged in the development of this technology. As part of the company’s Essentials2020 strategy, the IoT is a focus area for Orange, which plans to generate 600 million euros in revenue by 2018. In September 2015, the telco had announced it will deploy an IoT network to cover the whole of metropolitan France, to provide a foundation for a range of smart city applications. After a successful test of the LoRaWAN protocol in Grenoble, Orange selected this networking technology as the basis for this network rollout. The network will allow cities and companies to develop smart city applications and to run them on the Orange network.

IoT will also transform companies and industries. IoT implementations will impact on the productivity, efficiency and operations of industries around the world. The term industrial internet of things refers to the use of IoT technologies to industries and manufacturing processes.

In the future, successful companies will use the industrial internet of things to capture new growth opportunities by increasing production and creating new hybrid business models. Industrial IoT will also allow companies to fuel innovation and transform their workforce.

A clear example of this is agriculture. The implementation of IoT has the potential to change agriculture for good, making this traditional activity more efficient and predictable. Precision agriculture can help farmers deal with a number of challenges presented by agriculture such as water shortages, the limited availability of suitable lands for crop plantations, the difficulties farmers have to manage costs and the need to meet the increasing global demand for food resources. Precision agriculture uses IoT applications, which help farmers to increase the quality, quantity, sustainability and cost effectiveness of agricultural production. These tools allow the farmers to know what seeds to plant, the amount of fertilizer they need to use, the better time to harvest as well as the expected crop outputs.

Industrial IoT can also benefit the maritime industry. Ships have for some time been equipped with sensors that collect data. Now, with the increasing implementation of IoT, that data can be optimized and sent in real time to a captain, their colleagues, other ships in the network or the shipping company’s communication headquarters on land. These sensors monitor everything from a ship’s speed to the temperature of its cargo, allowing for an optimized shipping ecosystem. The implementation of industrial IoT solutions in maritime operations can have a significant impact on route optimization, maintenance costs and asset tracking, among other areas.

On the enterprise side, the majority of big businesses have already deployed internet of things solutions, according to a new report from 451 Research, which saw the greatest adoption coming from utilities and manufacturers.

Taking stock of the source of enterprise IoT data, 451 found 51% comes from data center information technology equipment, 34% from camera/surveillance equipment, 33% from data center facilities equipment, and 29% from smartphones and other end-user devices.

In terms of how the data is used to improve enterprise operations, researchers found 66% of IoT deployments reduce risk, 33% facilitate “developing new or enhance existing products or services” and 21% for enhancing customer segmenting. “This also varies by industry with manufacturing and utilities mostly focused on optimizing operations, while reducing risk is more critical for those in finance and public sector,” the authors note.

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