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Comment: Making sense of the IoT opportunity

You only need to glance at a handful of articles to recognise how many different views exist on how IoT will develop. These range from competing projections on the speed of IoT development; from how many devices and when, to scale – who stands to gain most. For example, projections around the number of connected devices vary wildly from 28 billion by 2021 to 100 billion by 2025, with countless estimates in between. Clearly, not all projections can be right.

The outcomes of IGD’s research reveals that the journey to these many billions of connected devices has been a long time in the making. Indeed, 37% of food and grocery companies are already trialling or have successfully deployed IoT products or services, with a further 58% planning to increase their use of technology providers to help them embrace IoT opportunities.

Rather than setting out to produce a figure to compare or compete with existing projections in this area, IGD’s research instead focuses on understanding the factors that will further influence the development of IoT. This means moving beyond the hype and buzz phrases and into everyday reality to understand how IoT will embed itself into our lives. The value IoT can deliver is intrinsically linked to scale, meaning that IoT’s transformation potential inevitably increases the more we embrace it. But to do so, we must see the value.

IGD’s predictions are organised according to who they relate as well as their role in the bigger IoT development picture. Practically, this means creating a matrix based on consumer, supply chain or wider business impacts, cross-referenced with whether the hypothesis relies on or serves to create connections, disrupt existing ways of working, or help businesses find new, innovative ways of doing things.

The nine predictions are:

The research has been supplemented by an additional report, which investigates case studies and proposes future uses based on research findings. Broadly, these can be categorised as the way the supply chain may benefit from IoT development by:

Examples include a device being developed by The Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) that “looks like a piece of fruit and acts like a piece of fruit – but is actually a spy.” , which measures the temperature of freight containers. While it’s currently common for freight containers transporting produce to measure air temperature, it is the core temperature of the individual fruit and the ability of the carrier to maintain it that is crucial for maintaining quality. The non-invasive “sensor fruit” simulates the composition of relevant fruit and gathers data on temperature over the transportation period. While not yet capable of transmitting data wirelessly, this is the logical next step.

There are numerous benefits to using such a device. Retailers and consumers could benefit from fresher produce, detailed information about how goods are being transported and lower product wastage. There are other benefits too where the broader value that IoT offers becomes apparent. In fact, the solution has been developed primarily for insurance purposes, enabling buyers to understand where an issue has occurred in a product’s journey. This information can be used to inform future decisions around trading partners or to support a claim.

Above all, IGD’s research confirms that a new age of retailing is emerging – a digital, connected and personalised age, shaped by technology and the consumer. An IoT-enabled food and grocery supply chain helps bring this about through live, precise, consumer and product level insight enabling efficient, responsive solutions that meet needs and create value throughout the chain.

The reports are available to Supply Chain Analysis subscribers hereAn abridged copy of the report is available for free here.

The IoT evolution is one of the core themes that will be explored at IGD’s Supply Chain Summit on Thursday 9th November, with over 35 speakers from key retailers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Amazon and many more. Tickets are available here