Over the years, internet of things (IoT) has emerged as a digital game changer in the information and communication technology (ICT) space. This has been facilitated in part by the growing internet penetration across the world and the emergence of an online population that demands interconnectivity of objects and access to high speed networks.

The launch of IoT has enabled enterprises to enhance as well as streamline their business operations in a big way in order to achieve greater time and cost savings. Further, IoT has the potential to offer business value by playing a vital role in a country’s governance, and in managing and advancing its infrastructure and economy.

As a result, stakeholders across the globe are stepping up investments in dep­loying IoT technology. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), global IoT spending is expected to increase at 16.7 per cent and reach around $800 billion during 2017. As organisations continue to invest in software and hardware for providing IoT services, the worldwide IoT spending is expected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2021. This will offer appropriate opportunities for sustained value creation and drive growth in the IoT ecosystem.

Key drivers

According to a report by Forrester Rese­a­r­ch, about one in five firms across the globe have already adopted IoT technology while another 28 per cent are planning to deploy it in the future. The major factors driving this trend are a pervasive broadband and innovation environment as well as governmental support. Further, the emergence of IoT on the global stage has been aided by a steep decline in the price of sensors, processors and networking equipment. Research and development (R&D) initiatives have resulted in higher efficiency and lower prices of semiconductor components that are central to most IoT products.

There has also been a rapid expansion in next-generation wireless network deployments across the world, making it relatively easy to add new networked devices to homes and offices. Meanwhile, the advent of cloud technologies, big data analytics and data processing is fuelling the growth of the IoT market as they help derive results from the large volumes of data collected using machine-to-machine communication. The convergence of industry verticals for adopting internet-based technologies has also been a key driving factor for IoT.

Adoption trends

As far as the adoption of IoT is concerned, the developed regions account for the majority share (90 per cent) in terms of installed units. Among these regions, North America currently has the largest share in the IoT market. According to industry reports, the IoT market in this region generated revenues of $430.9 million in 2016. Further, the market is expected to contribute $1,088.8 million to the economy by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate of (CAGR) of 10.97 per cent. This is mainly owing to the fact that most players in the IoT domain are based in North America, where there is growing awareness about the advantages of using IoT and its early adoption. Players in this region have established economies of scale, which empowers them to invest strongly in R&D for IoT technology. Rapid digitisation across industry verticals, increasing adoption of smart connected devices and technological ad­van­cements have further fuelled the growth of the IoT market in this region.

While North America currently holds the dominant position in the IoT space, the Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) (APeJ) region is set to emerge as the leader in IoT spending between 2017 and 2021. The total IoT spending in the region is expected to reach $455 billion in 2021. Amongst countries in the APeJ region, South Korea, Singapore and New Zealand are the most capable of leveraging the opportunities pre­­sented by IoT solutions. South Korea has a high level of IoT spending as a percen­tage of GDP along with a strong business environment that fosters innovation and provides attractive investment opportunities for IoT vendors and end-users. Singapore’s cloud infrastructure, level of broadband penetration, ease of doing business and start-up-friendly environment make it an excellent incubator for IoT solutions. New Zealand also boasts of start-up-friendly procedures, government effectiveness, ease of doing business, regulatory quality and innovation mechanisms, all of which leads to a conducive environment for the growth of IoT technology.

The APeJ region is followed closely by the US and Western Europe, with each region expected to have an IoT spending of around $421 billion and $274 billion during 2021. In terms of the industry verticals that would attract the maximum investment, manufacturing is likely to emerge as the leading industry for IoT investments in all the three regions (North American, APeJ and Western Europe). It would be followed by the utilities and transportation verticals in APeJ and Western Europe, and the trans­­portation and consumer IoT sectors in North America. While manufacturing would account for nearly one-third of the IoT investments in the APeJ region, it would garner the maximum share (15 per cent) of IoT investments in North Ame­rica. Further, cross-industry IoT spen­ding will be among the leading segments in all the three regions.

The regions that will experience fastest growth in IoT spending between 2017 and 2021 are Latin America (CAGR of 21.7 per cent), the Middle East and Africa (CAGR of 21.6 per cent), and Central and Eastern Europe (CAGR of 21.2 per cent).

Opportunities and outlook

The concerted efforts being made worldwide for the proliferation of IoT have opened up numerous opportunities for stakeholders across the value chain including information technology vendors, device manufacturers, service providers and application developers. Further, enterprises across industry verticals have started leveraging IoT to drive business excellence. The technology has helped enterprises improve their revenue earning capabilities. Many enterprises are now looking at monetising the data collected for improving their operational efficiency. IoT generates billions of data points that must be stored, processed and analysed. Therefore, increasing IoT adoption will also lead to growth in data centre and storage spending.

With a growing focus on developing smart cities in various parts of the world, cities have become the locus of technological innovations. IoT technology is being leveraged to improve transportation, public safety and health, resource management and service delivery while developing smart cities. According to a McKinsey study, IoT application in cities could have an economic impact of $930 billion-$1.6 trillion per year by 2025.

Owing to its numerous advantages, which have an impact on the entire ICT landscape, IoT has emerged as a pivot for establishing a digitally connected world. As per industry estimates, the global IoT market is expected to grow from $170.57 billion in 2017 to $561.04 billion by 2022. Further, the size of the market is expected to increase at a CAGR of 26.9 per cent during this period.

However, there are several challenges that need to be overcome to realise the value from IoT. A key factor is interoperability, which can be achieved by implementing platforms that enable different IoT systems to communicate with one another. Further, issues related to governance with the accountability of multiple parties, security, compliance and data privacy on the one hand, and quality of service and economies of scale for profitability on the other, need to be addressed. There should also be proper mechanisms in place to ensure IoT deployment in emerging economies, which have different and uni­que requirements as compared to the developed and technologically advanced coun­tries. Spectrum management for establishing wireless networks in growing economies requires special attention.

These challenges notwithstanding, IoT adoption has now become inevitable. Clearly, IoT is the new reality of how people live, work, communicate and conduct business.