Vodafone’s fifth annual IoT Barometer survey shows an acceleration of large internet of things deployments and more IoT investment — and return on that investment.

“Nearly all of the companies that have adopted IoT have already seen a return on their investment,” said Erik Brenneis, director of Vodafone IoT and CEO of the carrier’s global enterprise operations, in a preface to the IoT Barometer report. “Those returns can be significant — where adopters reported an increase in revenue, the average was 19%. And we found that there’s a correlation between scale of adoption and return on investment (ROI) achieved. Among those with up to 100 connected devices, 28% are seeing ‘significant return or benefit’; that rises to 67% of those with over 50,000 connected devices.”

Vodafone found that when organizations reported a revenue bump from IoT, it was an average of 19%, while reports of cost reductions averaged 16%.

Vodafone’s survey was based on interviews with nearly 1,300 respondents, almost 40% of whom were in IT; those participants were in a wide range of industries, including retail, manufacturing, healthcare, automotive, the public sector, energy and utilities, transportation and logistics, and consumer electronics. Businesses ranged from small and medium-sized enterprises to large global companies, with 17% of respondents coming from companies with 10,000 or more employees. Participants came from 13 countries around the world, with just over 200 in the U.S.

Here are the key takeaways from the 2017/2018 IoT Barometer report:

IoT is seen as essential to digital transformation. Nearly three-quarters of IoT adopters agreed that “digital transformation is impossible without IoT.” Most adopters think that IoT will have an “enormous or sizeable impact on the whole economy” within the next five years.

IoT adoption is rising. In Vodafone’s first IoT Barometer survey in 2013, IoT adoption was around 12%. In 2017, that had risen to 29% of respondents. The biggest year-over-year jumps from 2016 to 2017 were in transportation and logistics (from 19% adoption in 2016 to 27% adoption in 2017) and retail (20% adoption in 2016 to 26% adoption last year).

IoT deployment sizes are increasing. Twelve percent of companies which have adopted IoT have at least 10,000 connected devices. Vodafone found that the percentage of respondents with more than 50,000 connected devices deployed, although small, doubled between 2016 to 2017 — from three percent to six percent.

Among respondents with the largest IoT deployments, 67% said they were achieving a “significant return” on their investment in IoT (compared to about 30% of adopters with fewer than 100 devices reporting a “significant return” — although 95% of IoT adopters said they saw “tangible benefits” from their deployments). Large deployers also had confidence in their security, with only 7% saying that security was their biggest concern.

IoT connectivity is diversifying. Almost 30% of companies which plan future IoT adoption are looking into low-power wide-area networks. Meanwhile, another 40% are looking at the potential of 5G to support their future IoT adoption. But multi-technology deployments are the norm even now: Vodafone found that even companies with deployments of fewer than 100 devices use, on average, three connectivity options. “When they reach just 500 connected devices, organisations typically require four connectivity options to give them the required coverage and resiliency,” the report noted.

Companies are turning to partners for the necessary IoT skills and expertise. Insufficient resources or skills was reported as the fourth-biggest barrier to adoption, and 75% of IoT adopters had increased their use of partners to deliver or manage IoT deployments. Nearly half were working with security specialists, and more than half of large deployments involved working with third-party experts.

“IoT isn’t new anymore,” Brenneis said. “But it’s still early days in terms of its potential.”

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