UK is falling behind on IoT adoption – Microsoft

A new report from Microsoft suggests the UK is falling behind the trend when it comes to IOT adoption, risking losing out on the economic benefits of the digital economy.

At the moment, it seems the UK can’t do much right in the digital world. Yes, it might be one of the quickest nations worldwide to get all of its MNOs into the 5G race, but there are numerous stories which condemn the potential of the country, suggesting actions are not following the strong rhetoric which has been set forward by the UK Government.

Whether it is Brexit and the delayed decision on Huawei, a sluggish approach to fibre broadband deployment or poor regulations which inhibit speedy deployment, the UK constantly seems to be at risk of losing out on the promised bonanza in the digital economy. Here, Microsoft is suggesting sluggish adoption of IOT could be another worry.

According to the research, 73% of the respondents work for UK companies which have adopted IOT. This might sound like an impressive number, though it compares to 88% in Germany and China, 87% in France and the US, and 83% in Japan. Of those who have adopted IOT in the UK, only 80% of the respondents believed it was ‘critical’ to their success in the future.

Although you always have to take these reports with a pinch of salt, Microsoft will certainly benefit from hyping the importance of IOT, it might be considered a concern the UK is not dining at the top table. Some of those with the biggest worriers might be the telcos.

The original promise of 5G was to drive higher download speeds to satisfy the consumer’s insatiable appetite for data, though the conversation has evolved over the last 18-24 months. Now you have numerous telcos around the world preaching the benefits of IOT to enterprise customers as this could represent a significant new revenue stream in the future.

In the UK, IOT has been central to the messaging from Vodafone while O2 has been exploring how it can work with enterprise business customers more intimately. The telcos are searching for ways they can engage enterprise customers beyond traditional connectivity, and not only does IOT drive additional revenues, it opens up conversations with new customers.

At almost every Vodafone event over the last few years, seeing a large plastic cow with a sensor draped around its neck was a guarantee. The connected cow has become as much as an inside joke as the talking fridge, but it does represent entirely new opportunities for the telcos. Farmers might never have been customers in the past, but should the benefits of IOT be effectively communicated, there are numerous segments where the door could be opened.

That said, first and foremost the telcos will have to navigate the traditional reserved and conservative nature of the Brits. As you can see from the adoption rates listed above, it seems the old attitudes of the UK are still prevalent.

China to lead the world on smart assistant adoption – Canalys

Canalys is forecasting China to be the biggest adopter of smart assistants by 2023, with an install base of 5.8 billion.

Though the US will claim to be the leader today, over the course of the next four years, Canalys forecasts a boom in China. The team suggests 5.8 billion devices will be installed across the country, twice as many as the total in the US.

“The growing Chinese middle class is relentlessly pursuing a higher standard of living, and smart appliances will play a major part in their vision of the ideal home,” said Canalys Research Analyst Cynthia Chen.

“Appliance makers Haier, TCL and Hisense are changing their strategies to capture the trend early. Even the retailer Suning and smartphone vendor Xiaomi are aiming to disrupt the market.”

This is perhaps where the consumer IOT and smart assistant segments will receive the greatest drive for momentum; adoption from traditional consumer electronics and appliance manufacturers. Companies like Google and Amazon can push new technologies to a degree, but consumer trust will be earned when traditional and credible brands in the consumer product space start integrating ‘intelligence’.

The idea of a smart assistant has almost been normalised, though usage is still incredibly limited. As consumers, we have not given up on the touch user interface, though as more assistants appear on air conditioning units, door locks and refrigerators, the more normalised the idea will become. And it seems the Chinese will be high up on the adoption list.

Canalys estimate each Chinese household will own an average of seven smart assistant-compatible home devices by 2023, with the large appliance category proving to be the biggest contributor to growth. However, smart phones will of course be the main device category for smart assistants in 2023.

“Chinese smartphone vendors, such as Huawei, Oppo and Vivo, are shifting their strategies to create IoT ecosystems with smart assistants, especially targeting homes with smart speakers and smart assistant-compatible devices,” said Canalys Senior Analyst Jason Low. “Having such devices work together seamlessly, especially across brands and platforms, to create new intuitive use-cases remains an industry-wide challenge for vendors around the world.”

Vodafone reports IoT is going A-OK

Vodafone has released its sixth annual Internet of Things Barometer report to give a temperature check on IoT progress, and its all looking pretty rosy.

Looking at adoption trends across various segments including automotive, healthcare and financial services, the team suggests the IoT world is creeping slowly towards mass market adoption. While this will certainly be encouraging for huge swathes of the telco world, as a telco which is arguably one of the leaders, Vodafone will be buoyed by such estimates.

“This is the age of digital transformation, and it’s a hugely exciting time for businesses looking to take those digital steps to success,” said Anne Sheehan, Director of Vodafone Business UK.

“IoT – alongside analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud – can deliver real business benefits ranging from improved safety to increased responsiveness to entirely new revenue streams. It represents a massive opportunity for businesses in the UK and globally.”

According to the research, 34% of respondents now use IoT as part of their operations, with 70% of these early adopters moving beyond the pilot stage. 95% of these companies are already seeing benefits of the programmes, while 74% believe IoT will be a major disruptor of their own industry over the next five years.

While the promise of IoT has been bubbling away in the background for some time, it did appear to be benefits for the privileged. This is of course far from mainstream adoption, but perhaps the emergence of more commoditised products, off-the-shelf, are starting to turn heads. The simpler companies make it to implement IoT the more success will be seen. This might seem like an obvious statement, but innovators often have a way of complicating matters because it seems simple to them.

“IoT is on the cusp of mass adoption but to make that jump into the mainstream, we need a fresh look at how these devices are implemented,” said Nick Ford, technology evangelist at Mendix.

“All too often, IoT devices are not set up to deliver the best results. Their implementation stops short of connecting them to purpose built applications that can unlock their true value. The good news is that most organisations don’t lack ideas here – employees and teams just don’t have the right support to bring their ideas to life.”

One of the issues which companies might be facing is a direct result of one of the benefits. 48% of the respondents note that improved data collection was a key benefit, however if you have no idea what to do with the data what’s the point. Considering the processing and action of data is the grand vision of the connected economy, this might be one of the areas which scares those controlling the purse strings.

IoT is on the rise, with Vodafone leading the charge. There might be some validation of this 5G thing after all.