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Are you part of an organisation striving to stay ahead in the rapidly evolving world of industry? Then the IOTSWC is the place for you! This year, I attended the 2024 congress, an event that promised expert insights on digital transformation trends, disruptive technologies, the latest industry insights, and best practices from thought leaders. We also got exclusive previews of cutting-edge technologies and game-changing innovations. Read this blog to uncover the key takeaways from my experience at the congress.

The IoT solutions World Congress 2024 

I last attended the IoT Solutions World Congress (#IOTSWG) in Barcelona in 2017, where I exhibited some of the new Azure IoT features with Microsoft. It was an eventful trip, coinciding with the Catalan independence referendum that brought about huge protests on the streets; Nevertheless, the event was highly successful and, we were able to generate a lot of interest in Hitachi Solutions IoT solutions. 

Looking ahead to this year’s conference, I found it particularly interesting due to the remarkable growth and innovation in the industry over the past few years. This time, I was there to support my colleague Jeff Winter, our head of Industry for manufacturing. Jeff, based in Chicago, was invited to speak at the event on ‘How to thrive in the era of Industry 4.0’ and how new advancements in AI were creating fresh opportunities for IoT. Jeff coined the term ‘AIoT’ during his fireside chat on the second day, which became a focal point of excitement and discussion throughout the conference. 

From my viewpoint, there was a clear distinction between the trade show and conference aspects of the IoT Solutions World Congress. The trade show heavily emphasized intelligent devices, whereas the conference focused more on the business aspects of leveraging IoT opportunities. 

For me, IoT has always revolved around data collection and ingestion. Once you have that data, the real challenge lies in deriving value from it. 

During many sessions, significant attention was directed towards the vast amount of data existing today and its rapid growth rate. We’re undeniably in a ‘post big data’ era—it’s now the standard. Reflecting on statistics from the recent GDSA summit in London, where it was revealed that over 80% of collected data goes unused, the emphasis for IoT must shift towards utilising data effectively rather than hoarding it. It’s about turning data insights into actionable steps.

Sustainability at #IOTSWG 

On a related note, as the new Head of Sustainability, I was pleased to observe several sustainability-focused tracks at the conference. While moving between the conference area and the main trade hall, I noticed an attendee tracker had been set up, with large signage promising to plant a tree for each journey made between the two. I took it upon myself to contribute to the planting of as many trees as possible, making it a personal mission during the event. 

The value of IoT Data 

Returning to the topic of deriving value from IoT data, it’s remarkable how much IoT devices have advanced in the six years since my last visit. What was once cutting-edge technology in 2017 is now mainstream. 

During the conference, LoraWan case studies were prevalent, showcasing its widespread use from monitoring quarry activities in the Amazon rainforests to overseeing oil pipelines in the Middle Eastern deserts. However, there seemed to be fewer solutions available to process the data than I had anticipated. One speaker noted that observing IoT telemetry updating in real-time on a chart has become fairly standard. Therefore, it’s promising to witness the new functionality in Microsoft Fabric aimed at simplifying the integration of streaming data with machine learning models and addressing some of the more complex IoT data challenges. 

A key takeaway from Jeff Winter’s presentation was the significance of defining data use-cases as the driver for innovation. Everything circles back to data. Digital twins exemplify this concept well. As Jeff pointed out, “Modelling and simulation aren’t new, but what makes digital twins different is the fact that the virtually recreated objects are fed real-time information from the physical ‘twin’.” This capability enables us to accurately replicate their actions and responses in the field, providing clarity and insights previously unattainable. Digital twins leverage data feedback loops to facilitate exponential learning and adaptability. 

The true value of IoT lies in the data, enabling businesses to optimise operations, validate design ideas, and even offer predictive insights into real-time processes. 

Key Takeaways

My final reflection on the congress, after listening to the cutting-edge solutions that are possible right now, is that how organisations prepare for change is a vitally important success factor. Because change (and here I am referring to wholesale business change) is a natural output of using IoT and data effectively. In the manufacturing space, organisations are transitioning from making physical stuff to delivering digital services for their connected products. All this change is driven by data, collected using IoT, and being used effectively to deliver value. 

I would sum up the conference simply as, inspiring. From seeing how the new Spanish hydrogen grid is using IoT for predictive maintenance, to understanding how the French retailer Decathlon have revolutionised store check-outs and stocktake operations using RFID, the possibilities for innovation with IoT and data are limitless!