The Internet of Things will soon be a critical component of any enterprise’s infrastructure, but many are ill-prepared to exploit this powerful set of technologies to full effect.
This article originally appeared on VMBlog.
We live in thrilling times: several emerging technologies have begun intersecting to create what some commentators are calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Breakthroughs in fields like artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, and quantum computing are redefining the way we work, live, and play, but the value of all these technologies is highly dependent upon one thing: accurate data.
So as we continue to forge ahead into the a new era in digital, the mechanisms by which we collect critical data — namely, the Internet of Things (IoT) — will become increasingly critical to the regular workings of our everyday lives.
A recent survey of enterprises from the agriculture, energy, mining, and transportation industries suggests that companies are well aware of that fact: 82% of those surveyed either already have an IoT-based solution in the field or plan to have one within two years. This by no means indicates that IoT adoption is a simple endeavor, however. In fact, only 21% of enterprises claim to have successfully executed a full IoT deployment to date.
One of the most significant obstacles to enterprise IoT adoption is a worldwide skills shortage, especially within aging industries like mining and agriculture. Committing to an IoT-oriented business plan is one thing, but effectively acting upon it requires an IT department with an extensive background in data security, data science, and IoT-specific technical support.
Nearly half (47%) of the survey’s respondents admit that they lack the skills needed to make the most of IoT-based solutions at the delivery level, and a further 33% admit that they could benefit from more skill development. Within certain industries, the IT skills gaps are even wider. In the mining industry, for instance, a remarkable 77% of enterprises claim that they lack the skills they need to fully benefit from the IoT at the delivery level, and 44% admit to lacking the skills necessary to successfully navigate the IoT even at the strategic level.
The skills shortage in critical IoT-related areas is exacerbated by the fact that most non-technical stakeholders have little to no grasp of how the IoT works on a practical level. In the energy industry, for example, when asked how well their organization’s board understood IoT technology, 22% of enterprise IT professionals responded with, “It is not understood at all.” A further 37% claimed their boards only “partially understood” the IoT, and a mere 13% reported that their boards “fully understood” it.
Even for enterprises that manage to build a knowledgeable and experienced IT department, these teams still struggle to build wireless networks strong enough to support the demand that hundreds, or even thousands, of IoT devices and sensors will create. You might expect connectivity issues in industries like mining, oil and gas extraction, and agriculture, where operations largely occur in remote landscapes. But even enterprises in urban-based industries like transportation have a hard time ensuring connectivity among networks of mobile assets like trains and motor vehicles.
The survey reports that in the energy industry, network connectivity issues are the most frequently cited impediment to full IoT deployment. Over half (53%) of enterprises in the energy space struggle with connectivity, and nearly one in four (24%) believe that connectivity issues threaten to derail their IoT efforts before they have even begun. Concerning as they may be, these figures are not unique to the energy industry. In transportation, for instance, 28% of enterprises believe that poor connectivity threatens to derail their IoT deployments.
Ultimately, the success of an IoT-based solution depends first and foremost upon the quality and scalability of an enterprise’s network. Various telemetry devices have been configured to engage in machine-to-machine communication for some time now, but as more and more devices requiring network connectivity, the burden placed on enterprise IT infrastructure will only get heavier.
To compensate for this added strain, enterprises should reconsider how they design and manage their networks. The number of devices present in the workplace will continue to grow, meaning that unprepared networks will struggle to provide reliable, uninterrupted internet connectivity. Even if the individual demands of each device remain modest, the sheer number of internet connections implicated by an IoT-based solution adds up quickly.
Fortunately, there are many networking experts IoT-curious enterprises can work with in order to guarantee that their forays into the Fourth Industrial Revolution are a success. 74% of enterprises said they used an external provider to assist with either “some” or “as much as possible” of their IoT development and deployment. When it comes to establishing a competitive advantage, the desire to commit to new ways of doing business is what really matters, and as long as enterprises seek out the right partners, they will be well-positioned to seize the many opportunities the Internet of Things has opened for them.
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