The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the objects surrounding us significantly to enrich our lives. From household appliances to industrial machines, the IoT is bringing more 'things' into the digital fold every day. Collectively, this is likely to make the IoT a multi-trillion dollar industry in the near future. According to a global survey conducted by PwC, business leaders worldwide are investing in building their IoT capabilities significantly.
The IoT represents the convergence of advances in miniaturisation, wireless connectivity, increased data storage capacity, increased battery life, powerful solar cells and sensors. Sensors detect and measure changes in position, temperature, light, etc., and they are necessary to turn billions of objects into data-generating 'things' that can report on their status, and, in some cases, interact with their environment.
In Bangladesh, there are plenty of opportunities for IoT to be a differentiator for businesses and human lives. Companies can create maximum value for their businesses and customers by taking advantage of the human-machine collaboration supported by this technology. Agriculture, retail, manufacturing, healthcare and other industries stand to benefit through a connected ecosystem that enables human experts to use data and take insightful decisions.
For example, sensor data can apprise factory floor personnel of the health of critical machines, resulting in fewer machine failures and improved production outputs. Such an application is going to help apparel manufacturing companies in Bangladesh, where export production and shipping are time sensitive. The sensors can also improve factory floor safety to a great extent by monitoring critical safety parameters and alerting safety officers early about any deviations observed.
Farmers in Bangladesh have a daunting task of producing crops for a densely populated country. With the threat of climate change and increasing population, they will have to produce more crops in the coming years on reduced land area and with limited water resources. Applications of sensors will enable farmers to monitor and optimise the use of water, fertilisers and pesticides while growing crops. An agro-focused IoT ecosystem will enable all participants to realise the benefits of efficient and sustainable farming.
Further, wearable devices have already begun to be adopted by the affluent sections of Bangladesh's society. These devices can collect and monitor several essential health parameters—for instance, heart rate. Specialised wearable devices can collect more detailed health data once mounted on a patient's body. These devices allow patients to live a normal life, and the data they collect allows medical practitioners to offer personalised health advice and services. In case of life-threatening events such as a cardiac arrest, an IoT ecosystem can activate patient care faster than any other methods available today in the industry.
With the growth of the overall economy, the organised retail sector in Bangladesh will also experience high growth. The IoT is going to help retail companies deliver a consistent experience to their customers by collecting and analysing data from their shopping habits.
Today, things are being connected to the internet at an unprecedented pace. These devices generate a massive volume and variety of data. The speed of data generation is also very high. This creates a different challenge of data storage and data analysis. The brontobyte (1027 bytes) is expected to be the measuring unit for our data universe in a few years. The setting up of proper hardware and software to store this huge volume of data and the use of the right kind of tool to perform faster analysis are going to be important decision-making activities for business leaders.
The other important success factor is going to be the IoT ecosystem. A typical ecosystem will comprise suppliers of devices, connectivity, data storage hardware, analysis tools and, most importantly, domain-specific use cases. Telecom operators in Bangladesh will play a very important role as providers of connectivity across all industries.
Research institutes in Bangladesh will also act as key players in this ecosystem by contributing their insights. For example, agricultural research findings will help in understanding the soil characteristics required for growing a particular crop in a particular district and developing an IoT solution for the same. Thus, the IoT ecosystem will be evolved with multiple participants with varied specialisations.
Given its complexity, the IoT ecosystem may take time to develop. Business leaders also need to factor the regulatory impact into their IoT investments. For example, tax considerations will require attention since a lot of hardware components of the ecosystem will have to be imported. IoT-enabled business models may attract a different tax interpretation since there will be a visible shift in the way of doing business. The power of IoT to alter business models and disrupt industries is enormous. Fast movers in Bangladesh are expected to gain significant advantage in their businesses over their peers.
The writer is a partner at PwC. The views expressed here are personal.