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.

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.

Gartner claims people are warming to AI

The power of artificial intelligence is unquestionable, but what remains unknown is how long it will take for the technologies to be considered mainstream. Are people afraid of the power of AI?

With every technological breakthrough it takes a considerable amount of time for mainstream adoption. There are of course early adopters who will reap the benefits of AI, but bell curves exist for a reason; the vast majority will be slow to react, scared of the unknown, resistant to any form of change or dismissive of the benefits. Despite this pretty much being an inevitability, Gartner is confident adoption is going pretty well.

“Four years ago, AI implementation was rare, only 10% of survey respondents reported that their enterprises had deployed AI or would do so shortly,” said Chris Howard of Gartner. “For 2019, that number has leapt to 37% – a 270% increase in four years. “If you are a CIO and your organization doesn’t use AI, chances are high that your competitors do, and this should be a concern.

“We still remain far from general AI that can wholly take over complex tasks, but we have now entered the realm of AI-augmented work and decision science – what we call ‘augmented intelligence’.”

This is where some of the biggest benefits can be realised according to Gartner. With a continued shortage of IT skills (and also in some niche/highly qualified professions) throughout the world, AI can be introduced to ensure the chasm of ability does not negatively impact revenues. How this idea has been implemented across the ecosystem does seem to vary quite considerably.

The research indicates 52% of telcos have deployed chatbots to assist with customer service operations, while 38% of healthcare providers rely on computer-assisted diagnostics. Fraud detection and IT security are other areas which have seen AI implementation, while the breadth of services will only increase across 2019. With the smart home, and smart speakers in particular, becoming increasingly normalized in the eyes of the consumer, this looks like a blossoming space.

Interestingly enough, today also marks the day the UK Office of National Statistics unveiled employment numbers for the year. The number of people now employed in the UK has reached an all-time high of 32.54 million, while the number of job vacancies rose by 10,000 to a record 853,000. Although the early adopters, those with extraordinary technology ambitions, will focus on the added value benefits of AI there will of course be those who use such a breakthrough to reduce headcount.

This is the reality of AI which we will have to meet head on. Jobs will be replaced by automation and software, people’s livelihoods will be made redundant, unless retraining is offered. But, for retraining to be a realistic ambition first there has to be an acceptance of the negative consequences of AI.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will be incredibly painful for some, but industry and politicians don’t seem to want to admit this, instead just focusing on the benefits. Every Industrial Revolution has been painful for those who have not adapted for the future, but somehow the rhetoric seems to be this one will be different. Putting PR spin on the issue will not help in the long-run, we need to be realistic.

UK gov says nothing much about 5G in 23 page document

The UK government has released another update to its 5G strategy which, once again, doesn’t really say anything of value or that we didn’t know already.

Coming from the aptly named Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the report essentially summarises all of the existing developments, without adding anything revolutionary, and, once again, emphasises the need for the 5G rollout to begin in 2020. This is of course assuming auctions can take place after Three and EE have stopped bickering with Ofcom.

“We want the UK to be a global leader in 5G so that we can take early advantage of the benefits that this new technology offers,” said Minister for Digital, Matt Hancock. “The steps we are taking now are all part of our commitment to realising the potential of 5G ,and will help to create a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone.”

Is anyone particularly surprised the government is once again crowing about the benefits of better technology without offering any contribution to the digital economy? Your correspondent often looks out of the window and comments on the weather to anyone who will listen, which adds pretty much the same amount of value as this report.

Work which has been undertaken so far includes a £25 million competition to fund an initial series of 5G testbeds and trials (starting next year), Ofcom’s work to revitalise spectrum policy (on-going), a meeting to discuss whether existing regulatory frameworks adequately support commercial investment in 5G infrastructure and services (it doesn’t), a Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (is this the seventh or eighth edition?), and also a call for evidence to understand what makes investing in fibre and 5G attractive (faster internet).

The update to the 5G strategy follows political posturing from PR point-scoring bureaucrats, as Ofcom and  Lord Adonis, the Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, decided to have a moan about mobile coverage across the UK. The reports were seemingly nothing more than a stick to beat the telcos, as the evidence supporting claims is questionable.

Ofcom has said there are more not spots in the UK than previously thought or claimed by the telcos. A not spot is measured as one where a user cannot complete a 90 second call interrupted, or stream a mobile video (needing 2 Mbps throughput). The coverage statistics and not spots are here for you to have a look at, but you have to question whether Ofcom has the personnel to cover every inch of the UK and test out this connectivity. Unless it has done this, how does it know whether you can watch a good cat video or not?

The 5G strategy might go some way to address these concerns, planning to extend mobile coverage to 95% of the UK, while simultaneously ensuring that mainline rail lines, major road routes and connectivity hotspots are 5G-ready. This is a very bold ambition, but considering trains are unable to run on time right now (or even turn up in some cases), we wonder whether 5G on these routes is an achievable aim, or even an affordable one. Consumers are constantly subjected to increasing prices on the railways of the UK, how much will the price increase when you start to make everything 5G ready?

As with most areas it doesn’t understand, the UK government has made another set of generic, shallow statements, which say nothing much in a couple of thousand words, but promise the world for a penny. Is it any wonder no one trusts politicians?