How to stop your IoT project from failing

The world has always been dominated by technology revolutions, and the Internet of Things is the next big one to happen. Connected devices are already changing our lives in both domestic and workplace environments, and companies right around the world are looking to capitalise on the potential here.

According to new estimates by research firm IDC, spending in this area will grow by 16.7% year-over-year and reach $800 billion by the end of 2017. In 2021, this statistic could reach a staggering $1.4 trillion. Growth comes down to continued investment from enterprises in IoT hardware, solutions, connectivity and software.

But while companies are actively investing in the Internet of things, that's not to say that every connected tech project is a success. Failure is actually pretty common here. According to a recent survey from tech giant Cisco, 60% of IoT projects don't get past the proof-of-concept stage.

Out of 1,845 IT and business decision-makers working in industries such as manufacturing, local government, transportation and health care, only 2%per cent said they've launched a successful IoT initiative. The questions that need to be asked are: Why is this the case, and what can companies do to ensure they make IoT a success? We find out.

Beating fragmentation

There's no denying the fact that, for many companies, investing in connected technology is a big gamble. Firms want to reap the rewards of IoT, but they need to ensure they don't end up losing money in the process. This can also be overwhelming for companies, especially if they don't have a massive knowledge of new technology.

Michelle Pelino, principal analyst at Forrester, says the biggest challenge here is fragmentation. Companies may not know which vendor or service provider to choose when it comes to implementing or developing an IoT product. She suggests that firms identify core goals and bring in the right providers to achieve them.

"A key challenge firms face that deploy IoT solutions is identifying which vendors and service providers can assist with implementation. Start by identifying the comprehensive array of IoT use cases your firm is pursuing. IoT use cases can focus on specific vertical industries, consumer markets, connected products, or commercial opportunities," she tells IT Pro.

"As the number of connected devices and use cases expands, and the volume of data captured from these connected devices increases, you'll need vendors and service providers who can provide simplified but powerful tools to derive insights from the data and build new applications that integrate these IoT solutions with business systems."

Planning is key

Planning is also critical when it comes to running a successful Internet of Things project. Mark Armstrong, vice president and managing director (international) at Progress Software, says companies need to have an idea of what they want to get out of connected technology. He also says firms should place a clear focus on analytics in this process.

"Know what you want. Too many IoT projects are built without a clear idea of what the end goal is and are destined to fail. Getting agreement on that goal is critical and then you can actually start looking at putting your plan into practice and making sure it works," he says.

One area which is essential to get right is that of the analytics process; this will help ensure you keep working to your desired outcome. Analytics is an iterative process in itself and needs constant adjustment to be truly effective. This is costly and time-intensive to get right. Next generation IoT analytics will apply meta-learning principles to machine learning, where learnings from one machine are applied automatically to other machines or entities. This will reduce costs as IoT devices will effectively manage themselves."

IoT is an enabler

In terms of implementing and launching IoT solutions, there's certainly a degree of risk. However, technology can be a big enabler, so sometimes it's worth plunging into the deep-end for once. Ramanan Ramakrishna, who works in infrastructure service at Fujitsu EMEIA, agrees that digital transformation can be a challenge but that collaborating with other businesses can make this easier.

"In order to make IoT projects successful, the C-suite will have to smartly use the information available to better tune their services. Harnessing this information is the first step in creating unbeatable customer experiences; importantly, businesses should see IoT as an enabler," he says.

"Digital transformation is the biggest challenge for businesses but the key to success lies in co-collaborating with like-minded businesses. Fujitsu's project with DHL to develop new services using IoT technology is designed to do just that, improving the safety of emergency services and providing procurement solutions including uniform and protective equipment.

He warns, though, that it's important to have a strategy in place. The most successful IoT projects are ones that are planned and clearly thought out. "IoT projects often don't deliver immediate results because organisations are too quick to jump on the bandwagon, without first considering the need for a clear strategy. Businesses must create tangible use-cases that can be tested, trialled and implemented before they reach the public domain," he continues.

"Ultimately, it all boils down to leveraging the right technology for your customer. The potential benefits to be gained are almost immeasurable, with opportunities to decrease operating costs, improve the overall customer experience and unlock new ways of doing business."

Understand the complexities

Although the IoT industry has made some big advances over the past few years, it's still in the early stages, and companies are still experimenting here. John Rakowski, director of technology strategy at AppDynamics, says companies need to understand how complex IoT can be if they're to succeed - especially in terms of data. "One of the biggest reasons for failure is not addressing the complexities that come with delivering a seamless IoT experience. This is down to the differing tolerance levels from consumers between online and physical objects," he says.

"For example, consumers bemoan the wheel of death' on web and mobile applications, but this isn't an experience they have grown up within their homes or cars. And In industry, the consequences of a device shutdown are far more severe than the connected light switch not working at home. Digital businesses must ensure that these complex, interconnected applications are performing at the highest level.

"But to get the most ROI as a business, they must also ensure that the massive amount of data generated by these apps is being monitored, managed and analysed in a way that will continuously improve business decisions. The internet of things will usher in a golden age of customer insight, as organisations now have a direct line of sight over how customers experience their products and services."

The Internet of Things is one of the most exciting areas of technology, and many people will tell you that. However, it's still in the early stages, and it's easy for companies to get wrong. If you're thinking of launching an IoT project and want it to be a success, you clearly need to have a plan in place and need to have an understanding of how this technology works.

Nicholas Fearn is a freelance technology journalist and copywriter from the Welsh valleys. His work has appeared in publications such as the FT, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph, the Next Web, T3, Android Central, Computer Weekly, and many others. He also happens to be a diehard Mariah Carey fan. You can follow Nicholas on Twitter.