BOSTON -- The 600-plus attendees who packed the 2014 Axeda Connexion conference this week came to make connections -- both social and digital. The chatter was all about the Internet of Things and what a world of connected "things" can accomplish. As laid out during the opening sessions, the changing dynamics of business are deeply affecting IoT trends around the world.
By 2020, the number of things connected to the Internet will be approximately seven times greater than the number of people on earth today.
vice president of advanced mobility solutions at AT&T
In a morning keynote, Mike Troiano, vice president of advanced mobility solutions at AT&T, explained the progress made so far in the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) marketplaces. In 2015, there will be roughly 25 billion "things" connected to the Internet, Troiano predicted. By 2050, that number is projected to reach 50 billion.
"By 2020, the number of things connected to the Internet will be approximately seven times greater than the number of people on earth today," Troiano said. "Many of you have been on this journey for a while, starting with completely wired connectivity and moving to a completely wireless environment. Some of you are still straddling that line."
The AT&T network is currently supporting about 17 million wireless machines, he said, and has seen a 54% increase in M2M customers in the past year. The company's year-over-year growth in new subscribers to their connected device services for the first quarter of 2014 more than doubled at 61%, Troiano added.
IoT trends point to growing acceptance from upper management
CEOs are increasingly taking notice of IoT's business possibilities, as evidenced in a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study, Troiano noted. Of the top trends CEOs believe will transform their business in the next five years, technology was number one, at 86%.
Numbers two and three in that study -- demographic shifts and globalization -- are also tied into IoT. New, younger employees are more conformable with connectivity and have come to rely on it in their daily lives.
Globalization is a business challenge that demands better connectivity, as organizations produce and distribute on an international scale, according to Troiano. "I have not had a conversation with a CEO in recent months that has not included globalization of their products and business as part of that agenda," he said. "They know they have to solve for that in the next five years, and there are a lot of technologies that can help, including wireless connectivity."
"Over the [next] 10 years, about 7,000 new large businesses we be included around the world, and 70% of those will be actually be headquartered in an emerging market," Troiano said. The ability to tap into a remote network and pull data from it, regardless of geography or time zone, is thus becoming increasingly crucial, he added.
One of the biggest IoT stumbling blocks that Troiano has observed companies tripping over is getting the key decision makers onboard with a deployment.
"I've seen a number of enterprise customers -- midsize all the way down to small businesses -- stall when it comes to deploying their IoT or M2M solution because they haven't fully vetted out the business model or the internal organizations that need buy-in," he said. "The CSO might be very excited about the technology, but has the line of business team fully bought in? [Has] the chief marketing officer fully bought in?"
Troiano outlined the top five reasons that companies decide to implement IoT- and M2M-connected technology. The number one reason is to streamline operations, he said, closely followed by reducing costs, saving time, increasing data visibility, and increasing and protecting existing revenue.
IoT brings smart carts to hospitals
Joining Troiano onstage was Rob Sobie, vice president of healthcare solutions at St. Louis-based manufacturing and technology company Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions. Emerson has been working with AT&T since February to develop "smart" mobile workstation carts that can be used in hospitals.
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"In an environment where downtime is measured by minutes, we knew we needed a strong technology platform and connectivity in order to support the business value needs of healthcare," Sobie said. The workstations are designed to allow hospital staff to update medical records from a patient's bedside, saving precious time. They also make maintenance easier, as the workstations will send automatic alerts if service is needed.
Sobie has faced his share of IoT implementation challenges. "When you're inside the four walls of an organization with people who have never seen [connected machines], it can be difficult to explain the importance of what you're doing," he said. "You have to take them to the value point and help them understand it. It's about letting people discuss with the key stakeholders the business value that they hope to get out of it."
"Trying to bring the 'village' [the users] together with the 'makers' [the IoT technology providers] is always a challenge," Sobie said.
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