Zebra’s Annual Survey Sees Growth in IoT Adoption

By Claire Swedberg

The resulting white paper and infographic indicate that the number of Internet of Things deployments among the companies surveyed has doubled, while the majority of respondents say they are in the planning stages of IoT system adoption.

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Zebra Technologies has released the results of its second annual Intelligent Enterprise Index survey, which finds an uptick in Internet of Things (IoT) technology investment by companies, a broadening of the deployments on which they embark, and greater reliance by IoT users on partners and third-party suppliers to provide the necessary technology integration and management. Overall, the study found that the number of IoT adopters—what Zebra calls “intelligent enterprises”—has doubled from 5 percent last year to 10 percent in 2018. That, according to the firm, indicates significant momentum in the IoT market.

The annual survey originated in September 2016, when the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard (TECH) hosted the 2016 Strategic Innovation Symposium. At that event, industry leaders compiled a list of criteria that would define an intelligent enterprise. As part of that effort, Zebra conducted an end-user survey to understand companies’ status with IoT deployment across such vertical markets as health care, transportation, logistics, manufacturing and retail, and thereby quantify the level of IoT adoption companies had reached, based on those criteria (see Zebra Survey Finds IoT Plans in the Works at Most Companies).

Zebra Technologies’ Scott Drobner

The IoT includes data captured from technologies such as passive and active RFID, as well as Near Field Communication (NFC), mobile phones, bar codes, sensors, blockchain and location solutions. The 11 criteria evaluated in the survey were the respondents’ IoT vision, business engagement (with initiatives under way), technology partners, adoption, change management (to oversee how it will be used by end users), point-of-use application (for context and situational awareness), security, deployment, infrastructure, data management plan and intelligent analysis.

As in 2017, this year’s survey included 1,000 company decision-makers, according to Scott Drobner, Zebra’s senior director of business and market intelligence. The participants represented companies similar to those polled a year ago, and were located around the world. In fact, with the global focus, only about 10 percent of respondents were in the United States.

One key finding was how much IoT investment and planning had taken place within the past year, Drobner reports. This year, 85 percent of those surveyed indicated they expect their company to increase its investment in the IoT and mobility solutions within the next two years. Fifty-five percent said they have an IoT vision and are currently executing their IoT plans.

The deployments presently under way have broadened as well, the survey found, to serve entire companies or to reach across multiple regions. Of those using the Internet of Things, 73 percent said they share the collected data with their employees in real- or near-real time. In addition, the use of IoT data for analytics grew from 40 percent to 66 percent this year.

The movement toward third-party vendors and suppliers has been a key trend as well, Drobner notes. “They indicated a strong preference to acquire solutions from a vendor,” he says, as well as to have those systems managed by a partner. In fact, the survey found that 80 percent of IoT users were engaging with a partner or third-party supplier to deploy and manage their IoT solution. That represents a 7 percent increase in the use of partners to manage entire IoT solutions.

The latest survey finds that IoT spending is up. That gain was measured at a 4 percent increase in average IoT spending over last year, for a total of $4.6 million. The study also found a 4 percent increase in those who expect to complete their IoT integration within two years. In 2017, that number was at 80 percent, while now it is at 84 percent. On the other hand, resistance to adoption within the company was expected by about half the respondents in 2017, but that number was down to 24 percent this year.

Overall, Drobner says, the growth exceeded Zebra’s expectations. “We did not have grandiose expectations that IoT adoption would grow to the level it has,” he states, noting that the interest and planning by respondents who haven’t yet adopted IoT systems indicates the technology has become mature. Challenges ahead still lie in the costs, complexity of integration and lack of familiarity with the technology, he reports.

“One thing we’ve learned,” Drobner says, “is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and no entity can do it all themselves.” In other words, he explains, no single IoT provider can solve problems for the many kinds of applications companies face. Instead, he says, there is room for many IoT solution providers in this growing market.

Drobner expects health care to be a vertical market in which the Internet of Things will see great gains in the near future. For instance, he notes, the technology can be used to manage equipment, supplies and patients, in order to improve efficiency and safety. He adds that Zebra hopes the survey will provide some concrete understanding of how IoT technologies are being adopted. “We know ‘intelligent enterprise’ is a nebulous concept, and we know the term ‘IoT’ is vague,” he states, “so we wanted to quantitatively develop a benchmark vehicle that can drive enterprises to understand this concept.”

The infographic and white paper are available at Zebra Technologies’ website.