Connectivity is the lifeblood of IoT, enabling data to travel from the devices that collect it to the cloud for processing. Sensors in IoT devices measure observable occurrences and changes in the environment.
IoT connectivity options vary in bandwidth, range, cost, reliability, and network-management features.
IoT connectivity technologies ensure that sensor devices communicate with each other, providing businesses with data-driven insights and enabling product-as-a-service business models. These business advantages can improve operations, save money, and generate revenue. Various IoT connectivity solutions are available, depending on the specific needs of each application. Some answers are less expensive than others, such as LPWA solutions that offer low bandwidth and range requirements. Others are more costly, such as Wi-Fi and cellular technologies. For example, IIoT sensors can detect dangerous conditions like temperature changes or incoming inclement weather and alert workers to the risks, helping to reduce workplace accidents. Other IIoT systems monitor the environment around employees to prevent them from getting too close to machinery or other hazards. For instance, a system can be installed on heavy equipment that detects if the operator gets too close and either warns them or shuts off the machine to avoid an accident. The system can also send GPS data to locate workers in an emergency, such as a chemical release or natural disaster.
Many businesses can benefit from the increased efficiency of IoT-enabled devices. For example, IoT sensors can track the movement of employees throughout an office and inform meeting schedules that minimize disruptions to worker productivity. The same technology can also help to improve employee safety in hazardous environments. IoT sensor-based applications can alert workers to dangerous chemicals or toxins and allow them to evacuate more quickly. IoT solutions can also monitor building infrastructure for damage. Constant monitoring can alert engineers to cracks, extensions, or strain on critical structural elements, enabling them to take preventive measures before extensive damage occurs. Several IoT connectivity options exist, ranging from cellular to satellite and beyond. However, business factors will ultimately determine which solution becomes dominant. For instance, a given connectivity standard’s cost and power requirements will be essential for IoT stakeholders who must purchase chipsets, modules, and equipment for their IoT devices. Similarly, the ease of integration and management of a particular ecosystem will also be necessary. Companies focusing on these factors will have a leg up over competitors who ignore them.
IoT connectivity technologies enable organizations to reduce machine downtime and deliver improved productivity. For example, in manufacturing, IoT sensors can monitor the status of equipment and trigger maintenance requests when thresholds are crossed. This can help prevent costly repairs and maintain production rates, which leads to higher profits. IoT sensors can alert customers of power, water, and sewer service issues in the service industry. This information can also be used to offer product-as-a-service business models that allow consumers to pay for their utilities based on usage. For example, a city utility could text or email to warn residents of a power outage and provide an estimated restoration time. Stakeholders seeking IoT connectivity solutions should focus on use cases rather than technological sophistication and select options that meet the needs of their specific applications. This will ensure the IoT infrastructure is flexible and scalable.
Better Customer Service
The information sent to the cloud from IoT devices enables companies to address customer issues quickly. For example, the software could detect an incorrect password or weak security system on an IoT device immediately, and the problem is automatically remedied without customer intervention. This improves the customer experience and reduces costs for the company. Stakeholders seeking IoT connectivity solutions face many options that vary in bandwidth, range, cost, and network-management capabilities. However, they should focus on use cases rather than technology sophistication to determine the best IoT connectivity solution for their needs. These solutions provide reliable connectivity for low costs. These technologies may also be used for asset monitoring to detect potential problems and prevent unplanned downtime. This also reduces the need for human operators to visit sites or equipment to inspect and repair them. This leads to lower operational costs and increased revenue for the company. The same goes for medical devices such as implantable pacemakers and stents, which can be monitored remotely and alerted to potential issues such as weak batteries or poor security.
Companies with the right IoT connectivity technologies can leverage data from intelligent sensors to generate new revenue streams by remotely monitoring equipment or offering ‘product-as-a-service’ models (where customers pay for usage rather than a product). For instance, IoT fleet management systems enable manufacturers to monitor their products and machines remotely, which reduces downtime and maintenance costs. However, IoT connectivity standards are still evolving, and a lack of agreement on what the industry requires may hinder growth. In the future, it could help if multiple groups—including consortia of companies and single strong players—could sponsor open-standard initiatives as they have done with other technologies. Businesses should focus on use cases, not technology sophistication, when selecting IoT connectivity solutions. This is because many IoT devices interact with the physical world in ways that conventional IT devices do not, and as a result, they affect cybersecurity and privacy risks differently. As such, they require more stringent requirements than traditional IT devices. Low power, wide area (LPWA) options are an excellent example, as they can be deployed without a cellular network and offer long-range communication capabilities.