Zebra Survey Finds IoT Plans in the Works at Most Companies

By Claire Swedberg

Only 36 percent of respondents say they have a company-wide intelligent enterprise system, while 57 percent report having a vision in place for some level of Internet of Things expansion.

Businesses recognize the need for boosting their intelligent enterprise capabilities, according to Zebra Technologies, while most confirm that they do not yet have intelligence built into the majority of their operations. That, Zebra reports—based on the results of its "Intelligent Enterprise Index" survey—may imply that there is a groundswell of Internet of Things (IoT)-based technology deployment ahead for companies worldwide.

The survey's key findings included the percentage of companies that have plans and cultural processes in place to adopt an intelligent enterprise: 71 percent. Of those collecting IoT-based data for an intelligent enterprise, two-thirds are already sharing that information for use by employees in real time or near-real time. The survey found that more than half of the respondents already had some level of planning to leverage IoT technology to expand into new markets and increase revenue. In fact, 57 percent said they have an IoT plan that they are now executing.

Zebra's Tom Bianculli

The survey, conducted from Aug. 3 to 23, included 908 companies in health care, manufacturing, retail, transportation and logistics. Participants were located around the world, including in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Brazil, India, Australia and New Zealand. The survey covered 11 areas: IoT vision, business engagement, technology solution partnering, adoption plans, change-management plans, point-of-use application, security, deployment, infrastructure, data-management plans and intelligent analysis.

Zebra offers Internet of Things technologies used to create an intelligent enterprise, the company reports. It defines IoT solutions as anything designed to bridge the physical and digital worlds, says Tom Bianculli, Zebra's CTO. An intelligent enterprise then integrates IoT sensor data with cloud computing and mobility (such as tablets and enterprise smartphones) so that data can be understood and acted upon for operational purposes.

The company began developing plans for the survey as part of its Intelligent Enterprise Symposium on the campus of Harvard University—which, Bianculli explains, included leaders from industry, government and academia. That symposium explored the definition of intelligent enterprise, how much it has been adopted to date and how companies can manage the adoption of such an enterprise.

According to the subsequent survey, spending on IoT solutions is already under way, with 43 percent of those polled indicating they spend $1 million or more annually (the average amount reported was $3.1 million). Most firms think in terms of enhanced use of technology to build intelligence, Zebra reports—in other words, sensors, mobile devices and the management of data coming from them. Bar codes are still the most common tool for data collection, according to the study, with 71 percent of IoT systems utilizing bar-code scans. Sixty-four percent employ data from mobile computing, while 63 percent use data from mobile phones.

Seventy-five percent of those spending $1 million or more on IoT systems indicated they expect that number to grow within the next year or two. Only 36 percent said they have a company-wide IoT deployment in place, while 62 percent expect to implement company-wide IoT solutions in the future.

The greatest driver for IoT adoption is customers. The majority of respondents (70 percent) indicated that improving customer service is fueling their IoT acquisitions. Those polled said they would also aim to use the technology to increase revenue (53 percent) or to expand into new markets (51 percent).

However, Zebra notes, more work needs to be done simply in making the technology change culturally desirable within a company. Of those surveyed, approximately 77 percent said they have a method in place to measure their return on investment (ROI), while 71 percent have IoT plans that address cultural and process changes. Many companies expect the adoption of an intelligent enterprise to be a challenge they will need to address. About 75 percent of those polled said they expect resistance, while only 21 percent currently have a plan to address such opposition.

The study found that around 70 percent of the companies polled share their IoT-based data with employees more than once a day. On the other hand, only 32 percent actually provide information that employees could act upon. When asked if they had a truly intelligent enterprise, only five percent of respondents said they do. That, Zebra reports, leaves a lot of room for growth. With regard to ROI, 77 percent reported having a method in place to measure their ROI.

The findings signal how much the on-demand economy is changing the way businesses must operate, Bianculli says. Consumers and customers of services expect more immediate, individualized responses, whether in retail, health care or other industries. He cites the expectations for transportation when a car service can be summoned via an app, anywhere and at any time, or purchases can be made online with the promise of products arriving within a day.

In retail, stores will be striving to better enable customers and sales associates to understand where products are located within a store, and to make them available for purchase. In transportation and logistics, an intelligent enterprise could help drivers to ensure they deliver a package successfully to a recipient the first time, thereby boosting customer satisfaction and reducing labor and fuel costs for multiple delivery efforts.

In health care, Zebra indicates, an intelligent enterprise could enable hospitals or clinics to serve patients with greater efficiency, Bianculli says, by allowing them "to shift clinician and nursing time from documentation and finding assets to taking care of the patient." About a third of nursing time is spent on tasks unrelated to patient care, he adds—and with an intelligent enterprise using IoT technology, hospitals could recover some of that time. Such a system could also enable them to better address nursing shortages. "We're quickly entering a time when technology will not be an adoption barrier," he states.