Research by Inmarsat, the world leader in global, mobile satellite communications, reveals that, despite the accelerating speed of Internet of Things (IoT) adoption over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, poor or unreliable connectivity is a key barrier limiting the success of IoT projects for most organisations in the electrical utilities sector.

According to the research, ‘Industrial IoT in the Time of Covid-19’, 76 per cent of all electrical utilities businesses experience connectivity challenges when trialling IoT projects and 78 per cent don’t feel that public terrestrial networks are completely suitable for their IoT needs. For most electrical utilities, the success of IoT projects hinges on connectivity being reliable, available and responsive enough to deliver actionable data at the right time and at the right cost to deliver a strong return on investment.

IoT is a network of networks, therefore reliable connectivity is essential for enabling business critical IoT projects, particularly in some of the world’s remotest locations, where terrestrial connectivity, such as cellular or fibre, is either limited or non-existent. Where this is the case, respondents from electrical utilities prioritise security (56 per cent), reliability (42 per cent) and network coverage (36 per cent).

The sector is incredibly cyber-security conscious due to its position in a nation’s critical infrastructure backbone, so it is little surprise that the sector prioritises secure connectivity over any other attribute. That their second priority is reliability of IoT connectivity, is also significant. It is even more pronounced in electrical utilities businesses in Latin America (75 per cent), a region with extensive remote territories with limited terrestrial connectivity. None of the agricultural respondents in Latin America said public terrestrial networks were completely suitable for their IoT needs.

Overall, there is still a considerable amount of work to be done to improve IoT connectivity strategies, with only 37 per cent of all electrical utilities organisations using some form of backup connectivity to continue collecting IoT data in remote areas away from terrestrial communications. Again, there is a notable geographical variance here, with only 5 per cent of electrical utilities businesses in Latin America electing to use some form of backup connectivity when they cannot access their chosen connectivity type.

Encouragingly, more than four out of five (81 per cent) of all respondents agreed that since solving their IoT connectivity challenges they have enjoyed much more success with their IoT projects, and 64 per cent agree satellite connectivity provides critical support to their organisation’s IoT communication networks.

Commenting on IoT connectivity challenges in the electrical utilities sector, Damian Lewis, Market Development at Inmarsat, said: “Our research findings reveal connectivity continues to be a key barrier to IoT adoption in the electrical utilities sector. This is increasingly true as the industry works toward ever-smarter grids, balancing intelligence at the edge against centralised monitoring and control to cope with increasing demand and other emerging challenges, such as fluctuating inputs from renewable energy sources. This is particularly the case in some of the world’s remotest regions, highlighting the need for reliable, secure satellite connectivity for those businesses servicing highly rural areas where terrestrial connectivity is either unreliable or non-existent. As reliable connectivity is a priority for IoT, more electrical utilities organisations need to have a backup plan in place to ensure the continuous transfer of IoT data in the event of a connectivity outage.”

Commenting on the findings, Mike Carter, President of Inmarsat Enterprise said: “With the majority of our research respondents experiencing connectivity issues when trialling IoT projects, it is clear many businesses need to overcome these challenges to maximise their return on investment. The fact that they also cite the limitations of public terrestrial networks as a barrier to the success of their IoT projects highlights the importance of reliable, secure and responsive connectivity for delivering the actionable, timely data they need to achieve their IoT ambitions. Dependable, flexible satellite communications play a key role in enabling IoT for businesses, allowing data to be collected, stored, and analysed from anywhere on the planet, including far-flung sites well out of reach of terrestrial connectivity.

“Businesses are increasingly appreciating that data collected in the remotest areas is often the most valuable, as business-critical activities happen there. Whether running a remote farm in Brazil, a mining facility in Western Australia, or an oil well in the Arabian desert, there need not be holes in an organisation’s visibility of its operations. Inmarsat Enterprise focuses on providing IoT connectivity to business-critical applications in remote places, via our highly reliable L-band network, ELERA. As the world’s leading provider of global, mobile satellite communications with the widest, most expert partner network globally, we work closely with our customers to help them achieve the most reliable, cost-effective, and efficient mix of different IoT connectivity types.

“In addition, to produce highly accurate, near real time ‘digital twins’ of their global supply chains, businesses need to work with trusted connectivity partners to develop the most suitable IoT connectivity strategies. Inmarsat ELERA is ideally suited for the billions of new IoT devices and sensors that are being connected every year. It has been designed for those businesses looking to accelerate and improve their IoT deployments, enabling organisations from all sectors to access IoT anywhere.”

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