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Using IoT to grow our SMEs

· IoT,SMEs

Over the next decade, the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to offer SMEs a massive revenue growth opportunity. Analysts predict that much of the new revenue opportunity will be obtained from services beyond connectivity, such as platforms, applications and managed services.

What is the IoT?

The phrase “Internet of Things” was coined by British tech pioneer, Kevin Ashton in 1999. The simplest definition and vision of the IoT is that billions of sensors and smart devices will connect and share information with each other to enhance the collective experience of the end user. This is done by collecting, cleaning and analysing the data provided, allowing for predictive and real-time actions to take place on behalf of the user and the associated community.

It helps to think of the IoT as the Internet itself, evolved for the third time. In the first two evolutions (or waves) of the Internet, we were either connecting via a desktop computer or on a mobile device like a smartphone or a tablet. In the third evolution, smart devices communicate and deliver information to the Internet without human intervention at a scale that we’ve never seen before. Within the next decade, it is projected that there will be as many as 50 billion connected devices operating on the planet, generating data in volumes previously unseen.

Improving Productivity

One of the front lines of the IoT can be found at the entrance to a facility. With a traditional access control system, your experience begins and ends at the door - you enter a PIN or swipe a card and the door unlocks. But when that system harnesses the potential of IoT technology, the door is merely a starting point for a completely customized experience throughout the entire facility. After you present your credentials at the front door, the system will turn on the lights and adjust the temperature in your office while simultaneously alerting security that you have accessed the building. During the day, the network monitors things like water use, sending an alert to facilities if a restroom faucet is left running or if a normally locked door is left ajar. At the end of the day, the access credential is used to exit the building, triggering the reverse actions of the morning – lights are dimmed, temperatures are lowered and doors are locked. If you decide to come in on the weekend, the system will only turn on the lights along the path to your office. This ensures energy isn’t wasted, but you still have a safe environment. Depending on how your office is structured, the system could be set up to auto assign a workspace for you, complete with a telephone with VOIP, all based on customizable preferences like your desire to sit on a certain side of the building in the sunshine.

Access control is one of those areas that hasn’t previously been looked at from a productivity and personal experience standpoint, but with the IoT, you get the benefits of improved employee morale as well as significant cost savings from the many efficiencies the system can make possible.

Access control can be a “trigger” for actions with many previously unrelated functions. Every aspect of a building’s operation has the potential to tie into this network, from lighting to intercoms, video, fire safety and climate controls. This is further driving the interoperability of these previously disparate systems to enable services such as location-based decision making that will provide a new level of value to tenants, users, administrators, and owners.

The Opportunity

A new generation of lower-cost sensor devices, benefiting from advances in communications and sensor technologies have recently appeared in the market. These IoT connected devices sense the environment several times a minute and typically deliver a one minute average value to a connected analytics solution, creating an opportunity for solutions and equipment providers to offer monitoring and control services that deliver dynamic, local information to stakeholders.

Whilst not intended to fully replace established monitoring networks, these low cost, easy-to-deploy IoT solutions provide additional benefits. Benefits of IoT enabled devices allow stakeholders, for instance, to enhanced visibility and situational awareness and early indications of pollution hotspots, giving citizens the opportunity to avoid those areas. These new products and services help cities connect their infrastructure, regulatory stakeholders and citizens, to address the issues such as air quality, rising temperatures, over-congestion.

  • Analyst BCG28 forecast that “Business to Business” spending on IoT technologies and solutions will reach $267 billion by 2020. 
  • The global market for climate control equipment is expected to increase from over $14 billion in 2016 to over $20 billion in 2021, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8%. 
  • Sales of sensing devices for environmental monitoring were worth $3.4b globally in 2015, and are forecast to continue growing at a rapid rate, expected to reach $5.64b by 2021.

Business models

There are a number of different business models and roles that SMEs can adopt to position themselves in the market and to enable them to deliver new data and analytics services including:

  • Data product business model – creating and selling data products via a marketplace where the buyer has the opportunity to add further value, for example by creating and selling their own applications. An SME can monetise this through subscriptions or transaction charging for the data service; 
  • Platform business model – Providing, an IoT application enablement, data storage and analytics platform for third parties to use across market sectors. The SME can charge for usage of the platform. The payment model may include; Pay-as-you-go, Freemium or Subscription charging for access to, or use of the platform;

SMEs are well placed to take on these new roles and to deliver new solutions and services to existing and new customer segments. Singtel and M1 both support nationwide Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT). SMEs can partner with theAsianIR to develop NB-IoT and other low range (LoRa) platforms that provide low-power wide-area (LPWA) connectivity options for the purpose of connection of IoT devices. SMEs can transform to become Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) providers, and provide a comprehensive suite of capabilities covering connectivity management, application enablement, and device management for corporate and residential users.

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