The rapid growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) has ushered in what we now know as the “fourth industrial revolution” and the “second digital revolution”. By the year 2020, it is estimated that the number of connected devices in use worldwide will reach 20 billion.
The world is becoming increasingly dependent on machines and data. Analogue equipment is gradually being replaced with sophisticated devices, able to generate constant streams of valuable data, control processes, monitor environments and make predictions.
One area of the world that has seen faster growth than any other is the Nordics. Right now, this geographic and cultural region boasts three connected things per person. By 2022, that number is expected to rise to eight; four times more than the rest of the world.
So, what makes these countries so good at IoT? How can a region with a population of only 27 million be streets ahead when it comes to innovation? Most importantly, what can the rest of Europe and Asia learn from its northerly counterparts?
The state of IoT in the Nordics
Many companies in the region are realising the full potential that IoT can bring to their organizations. Growth in the future is expected to be primarily driven by the connected building and connected vehicle segments. However, the fastest growing segment right now is connected people with applications such as assisted living and remote monitoring driving uptake and growth, so much so that the number of connected people devices is expected to increase by 500 percent by 2021.A vast number of visionary IoT developments have been implemented throughout the Scandinavian block. Danish shipping giant Maersk, has connected many of its fleet and containers to the IoT, giving greater transparency across their supply chain. In Helsinki, mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) is predicted to replace more than 2.3 billion private car journeys every year by 2023. And in Sweden, the IoT ecosystem is booming and regenerating a wealth of industries from waste management to assisted living.
The sweep of IoT across the Nordics is largely down to a number of fundamentally favourable conditions. Businesses and citizens are technologically more receptive and progressive compared to the rest of the world and authorities and governments are keen to provide funding for projects that improve the ICT-infrastructure. There is also a high penetration of fibre and 4G throughout the Nordics, and when 5G coverage becomes mainstream, the region’s pole position on growth and innovation looks set to be secured.
Another IoT technology that is growing rapidly is Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT). Perfect for devices installed in areas with low or no wireless connectivity, NB-IoT solves a number of economic and connectivity issues.
Collaboration and intervention are key
The Internet of Things promises to create a more sustainable, more productive and healthier society, and yet, adoption in the rest of Europe and Asia has been slow. Partly to blame is the lack of large-scale IoT deployments and the differences and fragmentation that often exist within many local authorities.
Trust and lack of expertise also seem to be amongst the most common reasons for the slow uptake. What is required is an intervention by the government that places focus on the value of IoT and which encourages the development of consensus-based and industry-driven standards. Collaboration between the government, industry and agencies will also help to develop IoT privacy and security policies that will enable customers to trust and understand IoT solutions and products and subsequently drive demand and adoption.
A delay in innovation comes at a cost
Europe and Asia cannot afford to let the IoT revolution pass by. We must learn from those countries that are not only making IoT work, but which are using the technology as a key differentiator and enabler. By delaying large-scale implementation we are making it increasingly difficult to align our IoT framework with those in other countries. This in turn, may negatively impact our ability to trade, compete and collaborate globally in the future. In an already uncertain economic climate, this is simply a risk that is too big to take.