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The Internet of Things is here. Everyday objects increasingly benefit from internet connectivity, that opens up a world of possibilities. What to many may seem like a technology concept is in fact a silent revolution: a complete change to how modern society operates. The evidence of this shift already lives in our pockets.

Smartphones are not ‘pure’ Internet of Things (IoT) devices, but they are the tip of the spear. They represent constant connectivity, enriching experiences through gathering and exploiting information. Navigating on a map app or compiling fitness activity on a health tracking app are simple yet effective examples of how the IoT can work

‘There is no industry that hasn’t been impacted, so it goes without saying that while a company may be ignore the IoT, its competitors are not.’

- Vuyani Jarana, Chief Officer at Vodacom Business

But this change goes far beyond a few consumer perks. The IoT is fundamentally changing business, so it is important to start the conversation on how your business will embrace the connected future. To this end Vodacom recently co-hosted an IoT Roundtable for CIOs with Brainstorm Magazine, the result of which appears in its April issue.

The business case

Here is a simple example of an IoT scenario. A retailer installs sensors on its shelves, each reporting stock levels. The sensors not only warn if something is about to run out, but their input can be compared to sensors in the storeroom noting how much product is in supply. An employee can automatically be signalled to replenish the stocks - they may even use a fluid job card that adjusts their responsibilities as trade ebbs and flows through the store.

The data from the shelf sensors can generate immediate reports on the movement of products. In a well-designed IoT storefront, a manager need only glance at their iPad to see the real-time state of business.

‘New case studies arrive all the time, showing the impact of efficiencies and insight delivered through the IoT,’ said Vuyani Jarana, Chief Officer at Vodacom Business. ‘There is no industry that hasn’t been impacted, so it goes without saying that while a company may be ignore the IoT, its competitors are not.’

A McKinsey report underlines this sentiment, predicting that by 2025 the IoT’s total economic impact will be between US$4 trillion and US$11 trillion. Ignoring the IoT would be like ignoring electricity or the wheel...

How to get started with IoT

IoT is not just technology: it is a wholesale transformation of the business. Areas that used to be isolated are thrust into the connected era, creating security concerns. Staff will have to be led down this new path with confidence. Even the current technology infrastructure may need a refresh.

‘An enterprise must check the readiness of its IT platform, and whether it will be able to interface with the different devices and sensors providing information. It’s vital that the enterprise’s IT stack is open and capable of handling the vast amount of communications that will be generated.’

Three key pillars 

Jarana offered three vectors for approaching IoT solutions:

Be certain your network is up to the challenge. IoT systems desire flexible infrastructure, including use of cloud and other data centre technologies. The network will support many endpoint devices with different features, operating systems and users, so it must be agile and scalable.

Security is critical. An HP study found that 70 percent of IoT devices surveyed had security vulnerabilities. But the challenge is not the new technology: it’s how the IoT brings older and more commonplace systems into the fray. From mobile devices to point of sales systems, everything must be scrutinised for risk. Above all, in the IoT age security is no longer a concern of IT. It is on the entire business.

While change is inevitable, growth is optional. A company may change, but that does not always translate into results. People are the catalysts of growth. Thus change management is important, so be prepared to both educate employees on the benefits of new IoT-driven processes and interview them on how IoT technologies such as automation and data gathering can aid their tasks.

The right partner is crucial

Fortunately companies do not have to go it alone. Vodacom Business has gathered an elite pool of partners to help its customers transform their businesses.

‘We have an ecosystem of partners who specialise in specific aspects of integration, and across a range of vertical markets,’ Jarana concluded. ‘These partners have deep expertise in their respective industries, and working with these players, Vodacom is able to assist customers to easily integrate their entire value chain.’

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