• Elisabeth Nebster

How COVID-19 Accelerated IoT Solutions Development


What Industry 4.0 technology did your business use to deal with the COVID-19 commercial crisis?


Following the Vodafone IoT Spotlight Report, 84% of respondents felt the IoT had ensured operation continuity during the pandemic. It allowed enterprises to keep in touch with employees, customers, and suppliers.


Here we try to discover what the coronavirus became for the Internet of Things: a disaster or powerful push to move forward.


Top Reasons Why Coronavirus Crisis Boosted IoT


IoT for Retail


Perhaps coronavirus restrictions became an insurmountable challenge for many retailers. But they gave impetus to the IoT development in this area.


Companies concluded that adapting to the new realities required urgent software transformation efforts. For some, the suitable solution was to develop IoT products from scratch. Meanwhile, others used low code platform resources for rapid development.


The main business issues during the COVID-19 were:

  • lack of a flexible strategy, considering force majeure circumstances

  • inability to switch to e-commerce in brief terms

  • limited resources to ensure all safety measures in brick-and-mortar stores


Consequently, some companies ceased to exist, a group of retailers migrated online, and the rest provided customers with a new version of an offline store.


Walmart, for instance, managed to exceed the 2019 level of income by $ 45 bln during the crisis period.


They adapted the IoT strategy in time. The company implemented a platform to improve product quality and reduce energy consumption.


The solution can control and track any process related to product storage and equipment operation. It allowed Walmart to prevent financial damage from food spoilage and to provide the customer with fresh groceries.


David Naumann, Marketing Strategy Lead at Verizon, is convinced that "this kind of IoT campaign has been around for over 10 years. However, only during the coronavirus, its implementation accelerated significantly."


According to Walmart representatives, the IoT system processes 1.5 bln of requests and analyzes 1trb of data daily.


"The biggest challenge of this IoT journey was the variety of devices," said Sanjay Radhakrishnan, Vice President of Technology at Walmart. “We realized that we used thousands of devices from different manufacturers, with different functionality, and speaking in different languages. We had to connect them and link to the central system."

In an interview with VentureBeat, Radhakrishnan argued that powerful teamwork helped solve that issue.

“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for autonomous checkout technology is driving grocers and retailers to innovate and adopt new technologies that keep shoppers safe and streamline checkout,” - said Lindon Gao, CEO at Caper.

It's the holy truth. When Walmart was streamlining internal operations, Kroger made offline shopping faster and safer.


They introduced smart shelves in 2018 and smart shopping carts in early 2021. Devices use AI to eliminate the necessity of checkout processes. Besides, the system actively uses up- / cross-sales, offering customers products suitable for those already in a cart.


The cart track, as well as real-time data transmission, are carried out due to the IoT.


Other industry giants like 7Eleven also use the Internet of Things to transform POS systems and reduce checkout queues. The company switched to mobile scanning of goods and cloud checkout. The retailer promises to introduce a new approach to payment in every US store by 2022.


Due to the Internet of Things, retailers could cut operating costs, mitigate risks and meet new consumer needs. Consequently, before the pandemic, IoT implementation was the way to stand out. But today, it is a way to survive in the competitive environment.


IoT for Telecom


Within the pandemic, the telco domain used IoT in several ways simultaneously.


First of all, service providers accumulated their resources to track the vaccine supply chain worldwide. Mobile operators had to maintain a real-time connection between devices, machines, and central systems, controlling deliveries. It was crucial to monitor the transport time and each vaccine storage temperature.


Following Vinod Kumar, CEO at Vodafone Business, Vodafone Iceland and Contolant have been working on a safe supply of drugs and vaccines for several years.


"This project has intensified during the pandemic," says Kumar. "Vodafone IoT platform and Controlant technology cooperate with governments and pharma companies to ensure safe tracking and monitoring of vaccine movement.Real-time IoT data loggers allow continuous monitoring of temperature, lighting, and other transportation conditions that may affect vaccine effectiveness."

Enterprises also had to think about employee safety. Sure, the majority switched to work from home (WFH). But the manufacturing industry still required on-site specialists.


The US telco operator T-Mobile has partnered with Guardhat to use IoT technology for staff protection.


They ensured the connection of industrial devices and sensor helmets to the central IoT platform. The latter collected data about employee location as well as provided audio and video communication in real-time. The innovation alerted staff about breaching the safe distance and notified them of flu symptoms.


Moreover, specialists can quickly respond to any temperature fluctuations, abnormal noise, or pressure in workshops. It helps to keep safe in case of collapse.

A fast-growing trend directly related to COVID-19 and IoT usage is telco companies joining cross-industry alliances. Now, telecom representatives strive to create commercial ecosystems for service provision development.


IoT for Manufacturing


During a pandemic, plants and factories had to protect employees at offices. We have already seen an example of how IoT and telco alliances come to the rescue in this case.


However, work from home was also a challenge for producers.


Upwork predicts that by 2025, over 36.2 mln US citizens will work from home. It's an 87% percent increase from the WFH-lovers level in 2019.


So, enterprises face several tasks:

  • to provide flawless integration between devices for tracking their operation remotely

  • to establish real-time data transmission for fixing equipment breakdowns at an early stage

  • to organize multi-channel communication within the team, regardless of location

  • to conduct accurate accounting and tracking of devices provided to employees for efficient WFH

Smart factories development is a versatile solution for manufacturers here. Today, they are turning from a dream into reality.


Intel, Telecom Italia, EXOR International, and JMA Wireless created a smart factory in Italy. Among core project advantages are:

  • reduction in operating costs

  • autonomous scheduling

  • the ability to respond to any equipment changes and fix issues remotely

  • centralization of order and process management

  • effective assets management

You may also like: 7 reasons to say "YES" to IIoT Management in 2021


The Bottom Line


The IoT has become a magic wand for lots of industries during the pandemic. The power of technology, the ingenuity of engineers, and the business-side flexibility were driving factors for the Internet of Things skyrocketing.


Fortune Business Insights predicts that global IoT market value will increase from $250.7 bln in 2019 up to $ 1 463 bln by 2027.


Statistics confirm unfavorable circumstances are not 100% like this. COVID-19 has become a strength test for companies. Meanwhile, it has provided opportunities for alternative approaches, services creation, and expansion of business scenarios.


If you want to improve your business using IoT, feel free to contact our specialists. We'll advise you on how to implement it in your case.


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