Is IoT really driving enterprise digital transformation?

New research suggests a link between two powerful trends, the Internet of Things and enterprise digital transformation. But are we really there yet?

Is IoT really driving enterprise digital transformation?

The Internet of Things is often thought of as primarily an industrial and consumer technology. But there’s a growing consensus that IoT is also taking a leading role in digital transformation in a wide variety of business applications in locations around the world. 

Survey says: Global enterprises bullish on IoT

A recent study by satellite communications vendor Inmarsat, for example, reveals that IoT is the top priority for 92 percent of the more than 500 enterprises surveyed across the globe. Titled “The Future of IoT in Enterprise 2017,” the report assembles responses from companies that have more than 1,000 workers in agritech, energy production, transportation and mining.

A whopping 97 percent of respondents said IoT is already delivering or will soon deliver significant benefits, including improvements in service delivery (47 percent), better health and safety (46 percent), and increased productivity (45 percent).

To be clear, though, much of that benefit remains to be realized. According to the survey, while more than four-fifths (82 percent) of respondents say they plan to deploy an IoT solution within two years, so far only a fifth (21 percent) fully deployed IoT-based solutions so far, and only a third (33 percent) have even partially deployed IoT-based solutions.

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In addition, Immersat has a vested interest in promoting IoT, as it’s working with IoT platform developer Actility to deploy “the world’s first global LoRaWAN network for IoT.” But there’s plenty of other evidence for IoT’s connection to enterprise digital transformation.

SAP survey also shows IoT/digital transformation connection

According to an SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study, companies leading they toward digital transformation are significantly more likely to have invested in IoT technologies than have other companies, 76 percent to 52 percent. And at SAP’s SAP Leonardo Live conference in Frankfurt, Germany, earlier this month, the company pitched IoT solutions to speed innovation in multiple industries, introducing new IoT products aimed at digital transformation. Similarly, at Cisco Live last month in Las Vegas, IoT for digital transformation was also on the menu.

Meanwhile, just last week in Bangkok, Thailand, the IoT Business Platform (AIBP) conference focused on "Understanding IoT Needs of Business in Thailand," highlighting “insights and key issues related to adopting Internet of Things (IoT) in Thailand … [and] digital transformation of Thai enterprises.”

Are we there yet?

The momentum seems clear. My big question, though, is exactly how IoT drives digital transformation.In a statement, the president of Inmarsat Enterprises put it this way: “IoT acts as the eyes and ears of organizations, and its value comes from how the data it collects is used to improve effectiveness…”

That makes sense, I guess, but it comes off as a bit broad. Given the numbers in these two studies, leveraging IoT for enterprise digital transformation still seems more like an aspirational goal than a firmly rooted reality.

I wouldn’t bet against it coming to pass by 2020, though. While there’s still an enormous amount of work to be done before most enterprises can fully book the benefits of IoT, the technology is so powerful and the percentages of companies committed to trying is so high that IoT-powered digital transformation almost seems inevitable.

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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