I recently came across a conversation on Twitter discussing the problems facing the consumer IoT, which could be summarised as: “consumers don’t know the value of IoT and can’t easily access it”. It led me to consider the problems facing the enterprise IoT. While there are clearly some significant differences between the consumer and enterprise markets, when it comes to the problems facing IoT, they are actually quite similar. Fortunately, as the author of the tweet (Tom Coates) goes on to explain about the consumer market, the equivalent problems facing the enterprise market are also not intractable and with some effort the industry should be able to overcome them.
At Nominet R&D we have been conducting research into the IoT for over two years now, and in our view there are currently two main barriers to mainstream adoption: that enterprises aren’t aware of how the IoT can benefit them, and secondly that enterprises don’t know how they can start using the IoT. If both of these issues can be addressed then IoT faces a much better chance of “crossing the chasm”, in the words of Geoffrey A. Moore.
As a side note: there are a number of other issues that are often discussed in industry circles such as security and standardisation, but these are secondary problems in our opinion. Until enterprises are actually at the point of considering investing in IoT they are unlikely to rank highly on their reasons for not adopting it.
Understanding the value of IoT for businesses
Until enterprises are able to understand the business value that the IoT can bring, it is very hard for them to get excited about the technology and subsequently have the desire and resources to create a business case to invest in it. The lack of clarity around value makes it hard to move from the “that’s interesting” stage to the “we need this” one, meaning that companies may not ever get to the point of properly exploring the potential of IoT.
So how can this barrier be addressed? The solution is mostly one of marketing and education, and therefore could be relatively easily addressed by creating more good examples to illustrate the benefits of the IoT for enterprises. Use cases are often very industry and business-function specific, which means that there needs to be lots of them to cover a wide range of examples. Connected sensor vendor Libellium has made a good start at documenting a range of use cases on its website, using its broad experience of real-world projects. If this approach is replicated by other companies it would further highlight the value of IoT and help companies understand how it can address their specific business needs, providing them with a clear and relevant illustration of the return on investment.
Making IoT easier to buy
Even when companies have a good understanding around the value that the IoT can bring, there is an additional hurdle in that it is not currently easy to “buy” the IoT. Unlike say buying a smartphone, there are no simple packaged “IoT in a box” products that companies can walk into a shop and buy. Companies currently must either build a system themselves or employ a specialist consultancy to build a custom solution for them. Many enterprises lack the expertise for the first and the finances for the second.
The solution to this problem is slightly more complex than the first. It requires the creation of services and products that make the IoT easy and cheap to start using, without the need for specific IoT expertise or for expensive custom solutions. There is a wide range of IoT platforms now available, but these are generally developer-focussed and not designed for average business user. If the industry can address this gap with easy to use tools for the non-technical user, then it would dramatically open up the potential user base and help push IoT towards the mass market.