Internet of Things market size to reach $520 billion by 2021

30 August 2018 4 min. read
More news on

A recent report from Bain & Company projects that the market for the Internet of Things (IoT) will more than double from $235 billion in 2017 to $520 billion in 2021. The growth, nonetheless, represents a cooling in the market due to customer concerns over a lack of progress in security, integration with legacy systems, and returns on investment.

The Internet of Things promises to drive efficiencies in the home with smart appliances, as well as in the factory with connected machinery – offloading vast amounts of data wirelessly for analysis, monitoring, and process improvement. However, a new brief from strategy firm Bain & Company – ‘Unlocking opportunities in the Internet of Things’ – finds that uptake of the new tech may not be as rapid as previously thought.

Though the market for IoT hardware, software, systems integration, and data and telecom services is projected to grow to $520 billion in 2021 from $235 billion in 2017, enterprise customer enthusiasm has waned somewhat due to longer implementation times for solutions and lower-than-expected ROI.

According to Bain’s research, customers believe that vendors have made little progress in the last two years in lowering important barriers to IoT like security, uncertain returns on investment, and integration with existing information technology networks. As such, customers are today planning less extensive implementations of IoT in 2020 than they had projected in 2016.What is the current stage of IoT adoption in your businessThough the proportion of customers who were in the proof of concept/implementation stage of IoT adoption grew to about 60% in 2018, cooling sentiment has caused projections for 2020 to fall. In Bain’s 2016 survey, over 80% of customers expected to be in the proof of concept stage in 2020 – a figure that has now fallen to below 65%. Respondents figure it will now take longer for IoT use cases to reach scale in their companies, with little growth in those expecting to reach the stage of ‘extensive implementation’ by 2020.

The dampening of projected IoT adoption has been fueled by concerns over security, integration with existing technology, and uncertain ROI. Security was the top barrier, identified by over 40% of respondents. Bain’s research further found that enterprise customers would buy more IoT devices and pay 22% more for them if security issues (hacking, breach of customer data) were adequately addressed.

Integration was the second most identified concern, at just over 30%. Apparently, vendors haven’t been facilitating the integration of legacy IT networks with new IoT solutions, underestimating the concerns of customers.Vendors need to address customer barriersRounding out the top three concerns was unclear ROI, identified by just under 30% of respondents. For example, though predictive maintenance was one of the first attractive IoT use cases, some interest has waned because the returns on investment have taken ‘longer than expected,’ according to the Bain report. Additionally, insights from data have been more difficult to glean than promised.

Meanwhile, the report found that cloud service providers (CSPs) have emerged as influential vendors in the IoT space. Customers said that CSPs like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure had the most influence on the IoT solutions they buy. AWS and Azure have expanded their IoT-specific tool offerings in the past 18 months, giving customers easy access to tools that collect, aggregate, and analyze data. Though their offerings make it easier to try out new use cases and scale quickly, the broad services offer little optimization for industry-specific applications.

So what are IoT vendors to do in the somewhat less enthusiastic IoT environment? Based on experience, Bain suggests that vendors can better address customer concerns (security, ROI, etc.) by focusing on fewer industries to learn the ins-and-outs of the field and deliver what clients need and want. “Gaining deep experience in a few use cases helps vendors anticipate customer needs in those industries and allows them to create a repeatable playbook and end-to-end solutions,” says the report.