How would you describe the current state of IoT?
A1: The current state is unfulfilled! IoT hype has been circulating at a fever pitch for 4-5 years and the reality has not kept pace with the execution. More so, when you look at analyst citing’s like at Gartner hype cycles, you see the early peak in the curve, the decline, the dreaded trough of disillusionment as you will, and then the validation of the tech. The peak for IoT went higher than typically predicted and the trough dug deeper. Challenges and costs around hardware, connectivity and integration has kept IoT from being pervasive in all industries and fulfilling the promise.
Q2: How has COVID-19 changed the industry?
A2: COVID-19 has identified the need for enterprises and the public sector to have remote monitoring capabilities and characteristics in place in the absence of human touch. Because of the restrictions on personal interaction and travel, enterprises that have deployed IoT solutions have been able to effectively monitor operations via remote sensors. Innovative companies have looked at how they could automate processes in ways that they could never do before. Cost justifications are not the sole criteria for making IoT decisions anymore. COVID-19 has spawned many new use cases and thought processes with regards to enabling IoT and sensing.
Q3: Let’s talk about smart agriculture. Where is the industry at on the technology adoption curve?
A3: From a smart agriculture perspective, system and equipment manufacturers (Case New Holland, Mahindra, John Deere, Cargill, etc.) are leading and cutting edge. When you get to the Ag dealers, farmers and cooperatives, there is a vast drop in technology adoption. One of the overarching problems is the lack of connectivity in rural America from a wireless and broadband perspective. The good news is that this has been identified as a critical infrastructure need nationally and the government has started to significantly address this need. Programs like the Connect America Fund II (CAF-2) provided $6.2B for broadband connectivity. The FCC has a reverse auction coming called the Rural Opportunity Development Fund (RODF) coming out at the end of the year worth $20.4B for rural connectivity. WISPs, fiber providers, MSOs, CLECs, Wireless Carriers and Satellite providers (especially Starlink) will all participate. Starlink is expected to be a major player with over 800 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites already in orbit with tens of thousands more to be deployed.
Q4: Where is the opportunity in the market today?
A4: IoT has always been well received from an industrial perspective and this will continue to drive deployments. Smart infrastructure has also been building momentum – buildings, HVAC, etc. and COVID-19 will continue to drive this. A real time view of occupancy is extremely valuable. Classically, IoT either tells you where something is, or it shares the state of that you are measuring. The days of companies buying pieces of IoT solutions here and there are done. It is all about generating value (ROI), return on investment (TCO) or compliance. If you cannot show savings or new revenue, deploying IoT is nothing more than a science project or a fairy tale. No one has time for anything that does not contribute value to the organization. The real message is that we are reaching a point of inflection where IoT is not a nice to have, it is mandatory, a requirement to move business at the pace of the 21st Century.
Q5: What does the next year look like for the industry?
A5: Hard to say – but COVID-19 and deployment and success of the coming vaccine will impact industry in multiple ways. The work force and how businesses deploy workers has dynamically changed, possibly forever with remote work. I am bullish on the use of IoT as schema for remote monitoring and tracking processes without human interaction. This has become more important than ever. Remote work will drive widespread IoT deployment faster than any other influence. Regarding conference, I do believe that MWC in Barcelona will take place in June and I am hoping to attend!
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