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Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are considered essential for internet of things (IoT) hardware for digital operations, such as cameras and automation equipment, according to a survey from Samsara released today. 

Samsara, which makes IoT hardware and software, surveyed more than 1,500 operations leaders for its 2022 State of Connected Operations survey, in industries including transportation, manufacturing, construction, field services and food and beverage. The survey was conducted by the independent research firm Lawless Research.

“Organizations with physical operations represent more than 40% of global gross domestic product, yet they’ve been historically underserved by technology,” said Stephen Franchetti, Samsara’s CIO. 

IoT and IIoT markets are hot

The IoT market is booming: A March 2020 Insider Intelligence report, for example, predicted that the IoT market size would reach more than $2 trillion by 2027. 

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The pandemic’s supply chain interruptions have only underpinned the need for increased investment in IoT. For instance, in late 2021, when the effects of the pandemic were already being felt, the market research firm Gartner discovered industrial enterprises were speeding investments in industrial IoT (IIoT) platforms to improve business and industrial processes. 

The IoT and IIoT acronyms are widely used interchangeably, though the IoT is generally applicable to consumer and home devices, such as thermostats and lights, while the IIoT connects physical industrial systems. It also analyzes data returned from those systems for operational improvement.

In industry, the IIoT monitors conditions on, for example, a manufacturing line and predicts which machines will soon need maintenance, among other uses. It unlocks data that was previously housed in data silos, Gartner says.

And it’s vital to Industry 4.0 adoption, according to McKinsey. The technology “holds the key to unlocking drastic reductions in downtimes, new business models, and a better customer experience,” the consulting company reports.

For many companies, no AI without IoT 

Ninety percent of respondents to the Samsara survey said they implemented or plan to implement AI automation technologies connected via the IoT. 

“AI and automation will play a significant role in the safety and efficiency of physical operations and we’re already seeing this with our customers today,” Franchetti said.

In fact, 95% of those surveyed said AI and automation efforts led to increased employee retention, he said. 

“Our research found that 31% of respondents benefited from less time spent on repetitive tasks and 40% higher employee engagement as a result of AI and automation,” he explained.

Franchetti pointed to Chalk Mountain Services, a transportation and logistics provider in the oilfield services industry. The company rolled out Samsara’s AI Dash Cams across its fleet last year to study how drivers safely handled real-world conditions. With that information, the company changed how it rewarded, coached and protected drivers. 

The changes translated to a 15% improvement in driver retention and an 86% decrease in preventable accident costs, Franchetti said.

“What’s significant about our research is we found that early adopters of digital technologies are proving to be more agile and resilient,” he said. “While pen-and-paper management is still a stark reality for many companies, they can now clearly see the benefits of digitization from their industry peers.” 

The combination of AI tools and IoT hardware, particularly when it comes to connecting digital operations, shows no signs of slowing down over the next few years, so organizations should be prepared. “These technologies will be widespread soon, and operations leaders should see them as a critical tool in defining their future of work,” Franchetti said.

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