Making the most out of the connected revolution

The connected revolution – the combination of M2M technology, ubiquitous connectivity, increased data gathering and advanced data analytics – promises huge gains in efficiency and productivity for businesses and societies. It has the potential to be a major engine of growth for the world economy.

The opportunity exists to connect almost any device with an IP address – from cars to health monitors to home appliances – and get detailed, real-time information back. This represents arguably the single most exciting development ever in communications.

The connected revolution has the potential to enable more efficient use of scarce resources, automate many routine manual tasks, deliver enhanced experiences to customers, and both improve and accelerate decision-making.

But how to make an efficient use of that potential? Here are our 6 top tips to action now in order to make the most out of the connected revolution.

 1 – Act fast

Companies that are slow to act will not only lose a competitive edge, but are also likely to find their existence threatened by more innovative competitors.

To reap the benefits of the connected revolution, businesses need to re-evaluate their supply chains, internal operational processes, the experience they provide for their customers and their use of assets. Those businesses that are quick to identify the opportunities will gain a significant competitive advantage.

2 – Integrate M2M into your CSR strategy

The Global e-Sustainability Initiative’s (GeSI) SMARTer 2020 report projects that while the ICT industry’s footprint will rise to 1.27 GtCO2e by 2020, its solutions have the potential to deliver carbon reductions of seven times that amount. A Vodafone Carbon Connections research suggests that many of the carbon savings which will come from mobile technology will be delivered by M2M solutions.

By dramatically improving the use of resources and reducing carbon consumption (for instance through real-time monitoring and control of energy-hungry processes), the increasing take-up of M2M and analytics technologies could deliver massive sustainability benefits to business and society. Businesses should explore the benefits of M2M now to support their Corporate Social Responsibility credentials and safeguard their long-term sustainability.

3 – Identify the right questions

Having lots more data and powerful analytical tools doesn’t in itself create value. The value comes from being able to achieve new insights – and use those insights to make better and faster decisions and execute those decisions faster. According to 43% of respondents to the Vodafone M2M Barometer who have already launched projects, faster decision-making is the number one benefit achieved by early adopters of M2M technology.

Rather than just collecting lots of data and trying to work out what to do with it, businesses need to think carefully about which insights would bring them the most benefits.

4 – Resource wisely

Data analytics will become more important for organisations and demand for people with strong data analytics skills will increase. Firms need to ensure they have the resourcing strategies in place to deliver the required analytics skills.

A study by McKinsey predicted that in the US alone there will be between 140,000 and 190,000 unfilled data analytics positions by 2018 and a shortage of 1.5 million managers and analysts who have the ability to understand and make decisions using big data.

5 – Identify the right governance of automation

As technology enables decision-making to be increasingly automated, the ability to define the right rules and policies governing automation will become critical to how well businesses perform and need constant re-evaluation.

While the ability to automate many decisions and tasks offers huge potential benefits, it also poses significant risks if these new capabilities are not deployed judiciously. This is particularly pertinent for customer-facing processes: organisations risk losing customer trust if these technologies are not felt to be secure, transparent and proportionate.

6 – Review your approach to mitigation and prevention

The new security challenges arise as a result of the massive rise in the number of endpoints that need to be secured and the exponential increase in the volume of data being processed. End-to-end security is the top priority in delivering M2M projects.

In addition, the increased use of automated decision-making can amplify the impact of security breaches. So organisations need to take a holistic approach to security and risk management that includes their M2M initiatives. They need to focus not just on protecting devices and networks, but also on how they can mitigate the impact of security breaches.

The revolution is on its way

The connected revolution will affect companies of all sizes, in all regions and across all sectors. It could level the playing field between large and small companies: for example, small companies could gain the insights and the scalability that has previously only been available to large companies. Conversely, larger companies could achieve the levels of agility and responsiveness that have traditionally been the domain of smaller businesses.

Agreeing common standards within the M2M industry will be key to realising the full potential benefits of the connected revolution. Without common ground, not only will benefits be missed, but a proliferation of proprietary technologies will create increased complexity, confusion and cost for customers. It’s essential that the industry, customer groups and governments work together to agree common standards.