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"It is a new trend that is exclusive to certain sectors, such as the transport sector." There are plenty of misconceptions about the Internet of Things. We summarise the most important ones.
1. The Internet of Things is a new phenomenon
The Internet of Things (IoT) is being talked about more and more in newspaper articles and analysis reports as a new phenomenon. However, the concept is already very much a reality in the business world.
"We have been making use of the IoT for years. It’s just that it had a different name in the beginning," says Bert De Winter, Director of ICT at De Watergroep, a government organisation specialising in water supply. "In our organisation, we made use of so-called SCADA systems with which we can wirelessly follow up and manage our production environment. The principle is exactly the same," he explains.
Not new, but in constant evolution emphasises Peter Leemans, founder and CTO of technology company AllThingsTalk (photo). "It’s about a continuous improvement,’ he says. "Today it’s very easy to capture data. It used to be just something for the big companies. The technology is becoming cheaper and more accessible. Furthermore, the market is in constant evolution. We are nowadays looking at the imminent arrival of wearables and new data networks such as mobile broadband networks like 4G+ and 5G, as well as low-power wide-area networks like Sigfox."
2. The Internet of Things is predominantly situated in the consumer market
Consumer applications, like Coyote (which provides traffic information) and the smart thermostat are two examples of IoT applications that get a lot of attention. Nonetheless, the majority of applications are situated in the business market and in government sectors. At Orange for example, 60 to 70 per cent of the IoT projects are in the business environment.
Peter Leemans from AllThingsTalk expects a lot of growth, particulary in the business market. And there is good reason for this according to him. "If objects or machines in your company are constantly communicating with each other, you don’t need to ask where a certain piece belongs in the logistics chain, when a certain installation needs maintenance or what your staff members or clients are wishing for."
Leemans believes IoT begins with one business process that you might be able to improve by adding a sensor that sends live data or performs a specific action. "Sometimes, with very small investments, it can be an idea that quickly delivers a good return."
3. Internet of Things is about large companies
Contrary to what many people believe, it is not just large organisations and multinationals that make use of IoT today. As the technology has become more accessible, smaller organisations have also adopted it. ‘Today, 70 per cent of the IoT and M2M developers work in start-ups or SMEs,’ says Peter Leemans.
4. The Internet of Things is mainly for the transport sector
With track and trace technology, the transport sector is an early adopter of IoT. But there are a lot of other areas, such as agriculture, healthcare, the consumer market, the services sector, various payment sectors and the energy market that have also made use of IoT technology.
"My own organisation is an example," acknowledges Bert De Winter from De Watergroep. "We are a government organisation that specialises in drinking water."
5. The Internet of Things is about small amounts of data
IoT exists of countless machines and SIM cards that all generate tiny amounts of data.
"Not exactly," says Bert De Winter. "The amount of data that is transferred depends entirely upon the application. Sometimes there is a lot of data processing on the level of the machine itself, and sometimes there’s not," he claims.
The advance of 4G brings new possibilities along, such as the capturing and sending of camera images for security reasons. Or the offer of Wi-Fi connections in vehicles. And that is where there are large amounts of transferred data to be found.
6. The Internet of Things is purely for efficiency and operational use
It doesn’t make sense that an IoT project is purely operational and operates in the background. Some projects are more strategic by nature. "IoT was introduced to our organisation to enable us to develop ground water models. And that is only very strategic on a social level," says Bert De Winter van De Watergroep.
It has more to do with making savings and increasing efficiency. "With the availability of cheaper sensors and ways of accessing the information from these sensors, a company can benefit from increased efficiency, improve products and discover new business models," explains Peter Leemans. But in many cases, it also offers the possibility of re-examining your organisation and processes. "A project based on IoT is often decided upon by the CEO. It provides strategic information."
Leemans points to the impact on the economy. "A lot of up-coming and successful companies are based on mobile technology," he emphasises. "The IoT is mainly a revolution in the business world,’ he says. "Companies like Uber and Nest understood this very well. They aren’t the only ones."
7. Everything already exists
A lot of people are inclined to always think that they have reached the end of developments in business.
"They are mistaken," says Peter Leemans. "In 2014 there were more than 2 billion smart devices sold. By 2020, that number will be more than 30 billion." The problem, according to Leemans, is that a lot of companies have tunnel vision when they look at their products.
"People must dare to innovate and think out of the box." He gives the example of energy companies that want to rent electric vehicles. "Because they are the owners of an energy network, they’re going to install smart charging stations. Such cross-market thinking will become more and more commonplace."