The Internet of Things (IoT), in which all manner of devices and things are connected, is enabling digital transformation in many walks of life. It’s also heralding the promise that we will soon live in hyperefficient smart cities. But how does this affect business?

A recent report from The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) gauged the current IoT impact on business in comparison to similar research the firm conducted in 2013. The study looked at how businesses are deploying IoT, the perceived barriers to deployment and the expected consequences for organizations.

How Does the IoT Impact Business?

According to the report, one-fifth of respondents have already seen the IoT impact their business, and 30 percent believe they will see these effects in the near future. Among the cited benefits of IoT are cost reductions, efficiency gains and new insights that enable innovation and new revenue opportunities. So far, the IT, financial services and retail industries are making the most progress when it comes to using IoT technologies for external products and services, rather than just internal projects.

The report also provided some specific examples from businesses that are harnessing the transformative power of IoT technologies. Facilities management firm ISS, for example, is collecting data from sensors embedded into the buildings it manages to analyze occupant behavior and drive greater efficiencies. However, other parts of the construction, real estate and facilities management sectors are lagging in their use of these technologies, despite the potential benefits.

In the automotive sector, connected cars are fast becoming reality, enhancing both the driving and ownership experience. For auto company Daimler, the IoT is triggering a revolution in car ownership and usage. The company believes connectivity can enable people to share cars by remotely monitoring and managing their use, so available cars can be matched to demand. It sees the IoT as they key to its transformation from a car company to a mobility company.

Meanwhile, in the health care sector, the IoT can facilitate connected care networks that link patients, doctors and clinical physicians. This in turn can expand to the entire ecosystem of patients, customers, partners and suppliers. One medical equipment manufacturer is looking beyond just creating connected devices: The IoT enables it to participate in an interoperable ecosystem where equipment and services from many organizations work seamlessly together. Huge volumes of the resulting health care data can then be stored and analyzed in the cloud to improve efficiency and patient care.

The Sky Is the Limit

While many agree that IoT technologies offer transformative opportunities, respondents to the EIU survey reported some potential obstacles. Fifty-six percent of respondents stated that their deployment of IoT technologies had not been as fast as they expected three years ago. Additionally, their greatest concerns are related to practical matters, including the high cost required to invest in IoT infrastructure, and issues surrounding security and privacy.

Respondents acknowledged the importance of senior executive support for IoT investments in overcoming these barriers. However, 50 percent reported that their IoT efforts have this required backing, which bodes well for the future and their ability to cash in on the benefits offered.

We may not be able to asses the true IoT impact on business until adoption becomes more widespread, but judging by the small sample size we’ve observed so far, the sky is the limit for the IoT’s transformative potential.

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