The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated Internet of Things (IoT) adoption, a poll of 100 UK businesses and 1,639 companies globally has found.
The pandemic has made businesses now view IoT technology as vital, after it has kept businesses going during COVID-19, and see it as a priority investment moving forward.
And 78% of them believe the technology was key to their business continuity during lockdown.
Financial (85%) and insurance (84%) firms were most likely to accelerate IoT projects during coronavirus, the report's authors found.
Fewer companies, too, now see cybersecurity as a main barrier to adopting IoT technology. Only 19% of businesses see it as one of the top three hurdles to adopting IoT.
Meanwhile, IoT has helped over half (55%) of businesses adopting it to decrease their operating costs, by an average of 21%, says the study.
"IoT has grown up," announces Erik Brenneis, Internet of Things director at Vodafone Business.
Businesses are becoming more sophisticated in their use of the technology, he says.
And companies are now seeing it as a way to become more resilient, more flexible and quicker to adapt and react to change.
Companies are more likely to say they see a significant return on IoT investment the longer they have adopted the technology.
Seventy-three percent of IoT-adopting businesses that have worked with the technology for three years see significant returns on their investment. This compares with 50% who have adopted it for less than a year.
Many of these returns come from IoT allwoing companies to digitize their operations and make them more efficient.
"Before using IoT, our warehouse needed two whole days to produce and deliver stock data to us. Now, that has been reduced to under two hours," a fashion retailer told the study.
That retailer fitted products with RFID (radio-frequency identification) chips, so they could be scanned and tracked through the warehouse.
The company can then track and analyze their manufacturing progress and supply stock in real time. And it's easier to spot and remedy any issues with product quality while the stock are still in the warehouse.
A lighting company that has placed IoT sensors in its light bulbs says it can now collect information about light output, energy usage and temperature.
"A lot of people in leadership are making guesses ... [but] we now have access to a pool of reliable data and can base our decisions on real quantitative information," says the lighting company's senior vice president for market development.
It also means the company is able to adjust quickly – "those that adapt rapidly will survive, so essentially IoT gives you a better chance of surviving," the vice president adds.
Bump a robot today? Coronavirus has directly led a few companies to find new uses for IoT.
Altogether, IoT suppliers will see 9.8% annual growth in their sales in 2020, says the market analysis firm Canalys.
Wearable bands, smart personal audio devices and smart speakers will be most in demand, says the research firm.
Sales of smart personal audio will increase most – by 15.5% – says Canalys' Cynthia Chen, who is based in Shanghai.
Coronavirus throws up more challenges for businesses but, increasingly, IoT is helping to tackle them.
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