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Internet of Things

71% of supply chain IoT projects only ‘somewhat successful’

UK organisations are being challenged with connectivity, device deployment and rollout to a greater extent than their US counterparts, according to a new State of IoT Adoption Study published by global IoT connectivity specialist Eseye.

41% of UK respondents said connectivity was a top challenge compared to 29% in the US. Likewise, 36% of UK respondents said device deployment and rollout was also a key issue, compared to only 28% of US respondents. This is likely because UK survey respondents have more multi-region deployments than those in the USA.

As a result, IoT projects have failed to reach their full potential according to three quarters of UK enterprises who have embarked upon an IoT initiative in the last 12 months.

The Study was undertaken by independent research organisation, Opinion Matters, among 250 UK and 250 USA-based senior decision makers and implementers of IoT strategy within five vertical markets. It explores the current state of IoT adoption; the challenges, opportunities and untapped potential of IoT; the impact of COVID-19 and how this has accelerated adoption; and the criticality of intelligent connectivity to fuel future growth.

Key UK IoT adoption findings:

  • 85% of UK respondents said IoT is a priority for their business.
  • 54% of respondents are planning further projects in the next two to three years.
  • 91% are planning budget increases for IoT initiatives; 41% plan to boost spending by between 51 and 100%.
  • 99% said that COVID-19 has impacted their IoT plans; for 28% it has accelerated development of their IoT initiative and 30% said they had increased investment plans. Only 19% of UK respondents had cancelled IoT initiatives owing to the pandemic, compared to 33% in the USA.
  • However, 76% of UK respondents said that their IoT project was at best only somewhat successful in meeting expectations and realising benefits.
  • Connectivity, device deployment and security were cited as top challenges; 41% said cellular connectivity was their biggest hurdle, while for 36% device deployment and rollout, and security had proved difficult.
  • Cellular IoT deployments have still not reached anywhere near critical mass; most UK respondents (90%) had deployed fewer than 10,000 devices.

IoT at a tipping point

The Study found the larger the project, the faster the acceleration as organisations embrace IoT. The more devices respondents have in the field, the more they are planning to deploy in the coming twelve months. This indicates a tipping point in IoT projects in terms of scale. However, of 250 UK respondents only 8% had deployed between 10,001 devices and 100,000 in the field and only 2% had deployed more than 100,000 devices.

Increasing profit, reducing costs, disrupting markets and business models

IoT projects are undertaken by innovative organisations to disrupt traditional business models and deliver tangible business benefits. When asked about the benefits their IoT initiative has or is predicted to deliver 36% of UK respondents said it increased profit, 34% said it enabled the business to enter new markets, 34% said it helped to reduce costs and 29% of respondents said their initiative was aimed at delivering new lines of business.

Nick Earle, CEO, Eseye, said: “Is IoT finally coming of age here in the UK? Certainly, our results indicate that there is a level of maturity and an eagerness to fuel adoption plans here in the UK. Surveyed UK companies see IoT as a way to increase profit and reduce costs as well as disrupt business models and introduce new product lines. However, adoption is not without its challenges. We know security and connectivity have been an issue for businesses rolling out large-scale IoT projects. To this point cellular connectivity was a far bigger challenge for UK respondents than USA, with 41% saying it was the biggest hurdle they had to overcome versus 29% in the US. This is likely down to the fact that UK respondents are more multi-region with deployments than the USA, where deployments still tend to be national and focused on the domestic market.”

Technology drivers

Cloud and remote access were cited as the top technology drivers by 48% of UK respondents which, given the events of the past year, is not surprising, as many businesses look to accelerate their digital transformation plans with IoT initiatives. 5G was the second highest technology driver for UK respondents with 42% compared to 35% in the USA where respondents rated LPWAN technologies (45%) and Intelligent Edge hardware (44%) higher.

Intelligent connectivity

As the UK market matures and more organisations embark on multi-region rollouts, the importance of intelligent connectivity is growing. UK respondents were asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “I think the evolution of intelligent connectivity is going to be critical to continue to fuel adoption of IoT?” Overall, 81% of all UK respondents either somewhat or strongly agree with this statement. 33% strongly agree with this statement compared to 21% of respondents in the USA. In fact, nearly one-quarter of USA (23%) of respondents were ambivalent towards this statement, neither agreeing nor disagreeing.

Earle continued: “UK organisations are clearly determined to overcome the challenges they’ve identified, with 91% planning to increase budget, more than eight out of ten stating that IoT is a priority for the business, and over half of UK respondents planning future IoT projects. Therefore, IoT adoption is well under way and the pandemic has negatively impacted plans less here in the UK, with only 19% cancelling projects compared to nearly a third in the US. With that maturity comes challenges and certainly device onboarding and rollouts was cited as more of a challenge by UK respondents than USA. Likewise, 5G is definitely more on the radar here in the UK than the USA, which isn’t surprising as the UK was one of the earliest countries to officially commercialise 5G.”

Eseye’s State of IoT Adoption Report offers detailed analysis of the IoT challenges and trends affecting businesses in the UK and USA, and examines the variation between vertical markets including: Smart Vending; Supply Chain and Logistics; EV Charging and Smart Grid; Manufacturing; and Healthcare and Medical Devices.

Download the full report here.

A secure, sustainable pathway to the IoT in supply chains

By Derek Bryan, VP EMEA at Verizon Connect

Supply chains are constantly battling challenges, with unforeseen delays, restrictions and thefts causing disruption at every turn. More recently, the pandemic threatened the continuity of supply chains more severely than any event in recent memory. Lockdowns imposed across Europe and the rest of the world in response have caused disruption to the flow of goods, people, and transport drastically – with no indication of when its effects might fully subside.

The industry requires a smart solution, and the Internet of Things (IoT) could provide us with some of the answers. From temperature gauges, to in-vehicle sensor technology, to vehicle condition monitoring, the number of internet-connected devices in this sector will continue to grow, offering a ream of benefits to drivers navigating supply chain uncertainty going forward. 

According to the Verizon Business 2020 Data Breaches Investigation Report (DBIR), IT misconfiguration was responsible for the largest number of cybersecurity vulnerabilities in the transport and logistics sector. This is one of a variety of factors preventing a confident uptake of IoT across the sector, meaning drivers are losing out. 

With this in mind, how can we reconcile the expanding landscape of IoT vulnerabilities with its potential benefits? And moreover, as restrictions on mobility and economic disruption continue to be top of mind, how can businesses gain ROI from IoT in the medium and long term? 

Shoring up the supply chain – the benefits of IoT 

First and foremost, we must establish how IoT helps logistics businesses shore up their pipelines. 

IoT devices can include anything from asset monitoring sensors within vehicles to assess the condition and temperature of cargo, to external sensors alerting drivers of the proximity of other vehicles, to the condition of the engine, to driver seats being occupied and doors/windows being opened or broken into. Additionally, AI dash cameras that allow fleet managers to review footage following a harsh driving event or accident are also becoming increasingly common within the sector. 

Installing connected, smart technology on the ground provides logistics managers with a wealth of actionable data on, and visibility into, every step of the supply chain – allowing them to enhance operations in numerous ways. Using the data, drivers can be instructed to drive less aggressively or change how they load vehicles, for example, to ensure both they and their cargo arrive at their intended destination safely. 

Managers can predictively pull vehicles out of operation if engine diagnosis data indicates a breakdown may be imminent. Drivers can pinpoint exactly when and where their vehicle was stolen or damaged to help expedite insurance claims. They can even provide supermarket customers with exact records of how long their produce has been stored for, and at what temperature, while in transit.

These closer and more accurate insights are particularly valuable to logistics businesses during times of disruption such as a pandemic or other global event. Agility, streamlined operations and vehicles and goods that communicate with each other help provide a more informed and consistent view of the supply chain, and in doing so help end users provide a more accurate and holistic picture to their customers.

Overcoming potential barriers to unleash full IoT potential 

The benefits of installing IoT for logistics companies are numerous, but Verizon’s DBIR findings show that cybersecurity remains an issue for the industry. Other factors commonly cited as barriers to IoT adoption include a lack of integration between IoT and other digital technology across the supply chain, and cost. 

A resulting lack of confidence is holding some companies back from taking full advantage of the insights the IoT has to offer. It is understandable that some firms may struggle to justify investments in IoT-enabled devices, particularly if their organisation’s wider technology stack does not permit their managers to collect, view, analyse and act on data effectively. 

A resulting lack of confidence is holding some companies back from taking full advantage of the insights the tech has to offer. However, integrated solutions now exist that help automate and facilitate intelligent decision-making using IoT data,  and are designed with data security at their heart. Once implemented effectively and fully connected to all applicable business units across an organisation, they allow businesses to drive down costs, compete more effectively and cut wastage.

Confidently drive ROI across the business 

Effectively implementing IoT creates an opportunity for businesses to cut costs well beyond the vehicular portion of the supply chain too. Connected devices allow for better tracking of goods and produce from production all the way through to the shop floor. This increased transparency increases customers’ confidence in a firm – and in doing so makes the business more competitive in the long-term. 

Installing the technology in a selected number of vehicles means an individual driver on the ground will be safer, but across a whole fleet, businesses can use the technology to lower collective insurance premiums and reduce risk exposure, protecting business returns and adding to the business’ bottom line. 

Supercharging the supply chain in times of crisis 

If the past year has taught businesses anything, it’s that the ability to be agile and connected, real-time communication are both key to keeping supply chains running during and beyond times of crisis.

Fleet optimisation has been commonplace for some time, but the insights generated by the IoT are opening up new opportunities for companies to make drivers and vehicles an extension of the business, wherever they are operating. Not only can it identify potential threats in real-time, alerting drivers of issues in their immediate surroundings, but it can also feed this information – and more – back up to fleet managers, who have fuller visibility across the chain and can use the information to inform more intelligent decision-making.

Being aware of how every part of your distributed workforce is operating has never been important given whole global networks are in limbo. Reporting this quickly and effectively can help drive greater efficiency, safety, and cost savings for businesses as a whole, whether big or small. 

Smart warehousing: A reality check for the big vision of the Internet of Things

By Jamies Watts, Head of Sales, Mysoft

Following last week’s Total Supply Chain Summit, I have reflected on some of the conversations I had with people and a key topic that came up was Smart Warehousing and where SME’s are on their journey to optimizing towards this. I have done some further  reading and wanted to share my thoughts with you…

At the turn of a new decade, we are on the brink of exceptional growth in the Internet of Things (IoT). The number of IoT devices is forecast to grow to almost 31 billion worldwide in 2020 , and onwards to 75 billion by 2025, making IoT truly one of the trends of the decade. 

As 5G also becomes the norm, those devices will be connected across continents rather than just warehouses, and the logistics business is therefore ideally placed to benefit.

The need to refactor logistics for social distancing in the post-coronavirus (COVID-19) world makes the business case for smart warehousing more compelling. 

The RFID Journal reports: “At a time when social distancing is sweeping the world and changing the face of retail, the companies that survive will be those that take the leap into digitising their supply chain processes with IoT and RFID.”

But those headline statistics are only meaningful if we put the datapoints created by IoT devices to work. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is certainly part of the solution – it  connects disparate systems to allow management to identify trends and patterns and so make better commercial decisions. 

This is already going to be challenging. Analyst IDC estimates that IoT devices will create a whopping 40,000 exabytes of data by 2020 (that’s 40,000 billion gigabytes) and sifting value from the chaff of this data pool demands rigour and data visualisation skills which are currently both cutting edge and expensive to recruit.

Real world processes are resistant to automation

However, that’s still only the start. IoT is a rapidly expanding set of tools and standards to create information flows; it’s not a business solution in its own right. 

The smart warehouse, in which human effort is slowly transplanted by automations, requires a blend of hardware and software. Yes, that will be underpinned by IoT, but a range of systems must work in harmony.

Take, for example, one of the most basic functions that is naggingly resistant to automation: picking. The value of automation is clear. In the words of consultant Digiteum: “Tasks like picking and packing are monotonous and tiresome — thus, the odds of human error are higher than in more demanding tasks. IoT and smart warehouse technologies help automate repetitive assignments and allocate the workforce more efficiently. By introducing IoT to the warehouse, store managers will be able to reduce order inaccuracies and inventory damage.” 

But automated picking requires:

  • Standards for packaging – which generally has an associated size/handling cost
  • In-house and external coding/asset-tagging and code display (barcodes, etc) requirements
  • Best-in-class robotics, either capable of identifying and gently lifting a product, or at the least capable of picking units from a pre-defined pallet location
  • Management software to run the show and exception handling for when things go wrong

And picking is only one component of the workflow in which digital is expected to interface with the human world in the logistics environment. An end-to-end system will include guided vehicles and/or transit sorting, inventory control, and the ubiquitous Warehouse Management System.

Reviewing the business case

The smart warehouse business case therefore needs a two-pronged approach:

  • holistic view to appreciate all the possible benefits of a data-empowered warehouse:
    • Customer service with better communication and transparency, leading to loyalty
    • More efficient logistics from real-time understanding
    • Problem-solving, whether order-based (mistakes with individual items) or line-based (predictive maintenance and hot-swapping of facilities)
    • Productivity, whereby employees can be focused on higher-value activities
  • But a tactical, stepped approach so the pain of overhaul can be softened by quick wins and low-hanging opportunities.

Warehousing is going digital. That’s non-negotiable. 

In the smart warehouse, accelerated by the need for social distancing, there will also be fewer people on the shop floor. That’s also a business necessity. 

But what the shape of digital enablement will look like in each instance will never be set in stone. 

Further emerging trends (such as drones and autonomous vehicles) have yet to make their mark. Today’s state of flux is the new normal, and perhaps the most open-minded approach is to realise that data is an asset in its own right. 

It’s up to us to put it to relevant and meaningful use, knowing the solution will likely be different for each business.

If this is something that you would like to discuss is more detail and how Sage and Mysoft can help your business, specifically around smart warehousing and ERP. Contact me on jamie.watts@mysoftx3.com 07826 527 821

GUEST BLOG: Streamlining your supply chain with the IoT

By Derek Bryan, Vice President EMEA, Verizon Connect

Around the world, supply chain networks are experiencing a transformational wave of new challenges and changes.

The widespread uptake of digital technologies means customers now expect faster, more precise purchasing and fulfilment processes. As a result, organisations are seeking to deploy more innovative technologies within their operations teams to help deliver services more quickly and remain competitive. While these technologies bring undeniable efficiency and consistency gains to supply chains, organisations must ensure they align with the their overall strategy to ensure they deliver continuity and overall business growth.

Specifically, many forward-looking organisations are beginning to experiment with Internet of Things (IoT) devices to transform complex supply chains into fully-connected and homogenous networks. Sensor data and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) information from these devices, for example, can enable near real-time asset tracking, monitoring, and alerts that help streamline tasks and minimise disruption. More broadly, the data generated by these devices can help produce actionable insights that inform business intelligence and can help businesses improve operations.

Creating a greater field of view

IoT allows supply chain managers to connect their vehicles, equipment and devices to gain near real-time status updates on jobs. This can offer a full picture across the supply chain, from the warehouse, to different stakeholders and customers. For example, rather than seeing a job status listed as ‘with courier’ or ‘in transit’, managers can see the exact location of the vehicle. With this information, they can make intelligent and timely decisions that will keep goods moving efficiently. It also helps deliver other benefits across the business, such as reducing costs and aiding with compliance.

Creating the conditions for collaboration

The rise of IoT helps organisations to take a much more holistic view of how their supply chain impacts business. It is particularly important for more complex supply chains, where different parts or components are sourced across disparate suppliers and locations. In these circumstances, it’s easy to organise these centres into silos. IoT gives decision makers the ability to access near real-time details on job statuses across the entire chain and helps break down silos. Increased collaboration across business areas can also help to identify potential issues or bottlenecks earlier, make smarter strategic decisions and boost productivity.

Making the most of your assets

Improved connectivity allows supply chain managers or logistics teams to optimise fleets. They can provide smarter route planning and identify assets that are delayed in traffic or held up at a previous job. They can also track utilisation rates to monitor the efficiency of assets, enabling managers to schedule the optimal number of jobs for each asset. With a deeper understanding about how assets are utilised and performing, business operations can be fine-tuned. This helps increase productivity and enables supply chain managers to help schedule more deliveries or dispatches per day. When multiplied across a fleet and the entire supply chain, this could potentially bring a huge boost to a business’ bottom line. For example, studies have shown more effective routing and utilisation can reduce driver hours by almost 25 percent.

Cultivating greater customer service  

A more connected supply chain not only helps boost efficiency, it also helps deliver better customer service. Managers can access information in the office or on mobile apps to track where an item is in near real-time, so that forecasting delivery times becomes a more exact science. Managers can then identify any potential issues sooner, contact the customer to manage their expectations, or make alternative arrangements to ensure Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are met. The connected fleet also allows for automation of status updates for customers, helping them stay informed and reducing inbound enquiries to customer contact centres. 

While IoT shows a lot of promise, its implementation is only in its infancy. For supply chain managers or operations directors, however, there are steps they can take now to start seeing the benefits of the technology revolution. For logistics firms, at the heart of this approach should be a proven Mobile Resource Management (MRM) platform that can collect all the data from connected devices and help turn it into easy-to-understand and actionable insights. Those that do are setting themselves up for success in the future.