The Internet of Things (IoT) has become synonymous with improved business productivity and process efficiency, and the next four years will bring more opportunities for businesses to adopt innovative ways of working.
This is according to information and communications technology market research firm IDC Middle East, Africa and Turkey, which claims that the use of IoT in South Africa is expected to grow by 14% a year from 2020 to 2025.
The IoT is the technology that allows physical objects to connect and exchange data with other devices over a wireless internet network, thanks to embedded software and sensors. Businesses can use this data to uncover new opportunities, predict needs before they arise, and better control operational processes, among others.
Mark Walker, IDC’s associate VP for sub-Saharan Africa, says that the telecommunications, manufacturing, logistics, transport and government sectors will be impacted by the integration of the IoT. The IoT will also gain an increasing presence in the financial services, energy, agriculture and healthcare industries over the next few months.
In agriculture, the IoT can be used to efficiently monitor a larger number of livestock and get more detail on each individual animal using the data collected. In the energy sector, the technology can be used to build smart electrical grids.
The manufacturing industry, which is at the forefront of adopting emerging technologies, is already using IoT for things like quality control, predictive maintenance, and process automation. Walker believes that the sector will continue to invest in IoT and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to to benefit from data aggregation and analytics.
IoT use cases for surveillance solutions, personal protection equipment monitoring and device management, have increased during the pandemic to help the healthcare sector meet employee security requirements.
Consumers will feel the impact of IoT in their daily lives through vehicular IoT applications and smart home devices, while in the public sector, municipalities will put the technology to use for intelligent transportation and public safety enhancements.
“There are multiple applications for IoT and these have come down significantly in cost and complexity. The use cases, applications and innovations that surround the technology have evolved considerably since IoT was first seen sliding onto the information technology desk or boardroom table,” Walker points out.
Even though South Africa is one of the fastest-growing IoT markets in the sub-Saharan Africa region, there are a few key obstacles that impede widespread AI adoption.
Walker says that organisations are still questioning the business impact and benefits of the IoT. Furthermore, concerns around cybersecurity and privacy, limited skills and resources, and difficulty proving return on investment are holding the country back from reaching full maturation in terms of IoT adoption.
“There are measurable benefits to IoT implementations and applications. The technology has proven results in reducing operational and maintenance costs, and has shown organisations that it can be applied intelligently to deliver measurable value to the business and the bottom line.”
To capitalise on future opportunities of IoT, an organisational-level IoT investment plan is critical, Walker states. Mapping where their IoT opportunities lie and having clear strategies for measuring ROI will help businesses create value from IoT at scale.