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May 22, 2024

IoT Sensing-as-a-Service Implementation & Maturity: Considerations for Enterprise Leaders

Written by SmartSense | Supply Chain, Data, Innovation

Adding sensors and digital intelligence to physical objects was introduced as early as the 1980s. But it wasn’t until 1999 that Proctor & Gamble computer scientist, Kevin Ashton, coined the term “Internet of Things” (IoT). Since then, a multitude of innovative IoT technologies have been adopted by businesses to track products across the supply chain. During the early years, however, most of these technologies were single-functioned, siloed, and weakly integrated within an enterprise's end-to-end technology architecture.

In recent years, IoT solutions have improved considerably with the introduction of Sensing-as-a-Service, an industry game-changer rooted in enhanced connectivity. A Sensing-as-a-Service platform combines capabilities of IoT sensors with AI-powered prescriptive analytics to remotely collect, analyze, and act on real-time inventory data throughout an enterprise’s facilities and supply chains. These datasets provide descriptive insights and prescriptive actions to overcome obstacles related to operational efficiency, asset management, loss prevention, food safety, and compliance.

Experts estimate that, by 2032, more than 34 billion connected IoT devices will be implemented worldwide. For companies in the healthcare, pharmacy, and food retail and grocery sectors, the operational benefits of IoT adoption are indispensable.

Sensing-as-a-Service in Healthcare

refrigerated blood ready for use in healthcare setting

In healthcare services, an IoT Sensing-as-a-Service solution helps mitigate risk and improve patient outcomes. From complex patient care needs and widespread staffing challenges to stringent medical device handling protocols and asset maintenance schedules, employee task management must be efficient and transparent facility-wide.

Otherwise, just one disrupted workflow can cause severe ramifications that put patient lives in jeopardy. Sensing-as-a-Service technologies within hospitals and clinics streamline these workflows with automated tasks that inform and guide employees to drive high-quality care.

Sensing-as-a-Service in Pharmacy

The pharmaceutical industry loses an estimated $15 billion annually from temperature deviations in the supply chain. IoT-enabled temperature monitoring is essential to reducing that rate. Equally important, pharmacies must prove that medications and vaccines meet compliance standards set by the CDC, FDA, and other regulatory bodies.

To preserve efficacy and ensure compliance, pharmacists must store their cold-chain inventories in optimal settings within strict temperature ranges. The outdated method of reporting with paper-based spreadsheets has proven time-consuming, error-prone, and wasteful. The better — and inevitable — alternative is implementation of IoT-enabled digital sensors that automate real-time temperature monitoring along various touchpoints of the cold chain, including medication cabinets and vaccine storage containers.

Beyond product safety, Sensing-as-a-Service solutions maximize efficiency so pharmacists can focus more on patient care — for example, a task that took hours can now be completed in seconds. And in terms of saving revenues, more accurate and improved compliance reporting lowers the risk of steep regulatory fines and penalties.

Sensing-as-a-Service in Food Retail & Grocery

In addition to food safety, food waste and food quality are ongoing challenges across food retail and grocery enterprises. When perishable products fall outside their optimal temperature threshold during handling, precaution requires that they must be discarded even if an excursion wasn’t confirmed.

The temperature data collected from physical IoT sensors within storage containers and freezers provides real-time visibility to help food retailers and grocers ensure that the food they are discarding is, in fact, warranted. With a Sensing-as-a-Service solution, employees can rely on data-driven insights to proactively manage inventory for peak freshness and high quality, which in turn enhances the customer experience and boosts brand loyalty.

Implementing Sensing-as-a-Service: Buy vs. Build?


When it comes to adopting IoT solutions, enterprise leaders have a choice: purchase ready-made solutions from a vendor or develop their own from scratch. This predicament, often referred to as the "Buy vs. Build" decision, has significant implications for factors such as time-to-market, short-term costs, control, and long-term success.

When to Buy

When your enterprise has no IoT infrastructure in place, the obvious choice is to buy. Why? Building an IoT solution not only entails huge scalability challenges, but also requires the following infrastructure:

  • Hardware, including sensors and gateways
  • Networking and reliable hosting
  • Software development for data analysis, reporting, and communications
  • Personnel with an IoT background and expertise
  • Built-in continuous improvement capabilities to keep up to date with regulations

Unless you’re planning to enter the market as a solution provider, building a solution from scratch makes little sense for an enterprise looking to profit from the power and value of IoT Sensing-as-a-Service.

When to Build

When your enterprise already has an IoT platform — but it’s not being used for digital product and asset monitoring or fails to meet regulated compliance requirements — the best decision is to build. To do so, ideally your organization already employs:

  • A CTO
  • Teams of engineers and developers
  • Technical staff who can debug the system
  • A preferred protocol

From a strictly technical perspective, your IT team’s expertise might be able to integrate purchased sensing equipment and install it on their own. But should they? Not if your IT team lacks:

  • Hardware, software, and firmware engineers
  • Experience obtaining and maintaining connectivity for the new application
  • Familiarity with the sensing capabilities needed to handle your organization’s requirements
  • A backup plan for power outages

In this scenario, at best, your IT team can develop the most basic functionality that typically overlooks:

  • Additional bandwidth or operational costs incurred to support new requirements.
  • Cost predictability, scalability, compliance, total cost of ownership, and risk mitigation.
  • The question of whether building this new capability is truly a core competency.


When to “Buyld”

A smart alternative to either Buy or Build is “Buyld” — a flexible, hybrid approach merging the Buy and Build options. In this scenario, your enterprise partners with market-leading vendors and integrates their best-of-breed solutions with the company’s already existing IoT infrastructure to achieve optimum outcomes.

“Buylding” gets you to market right away with immediate business results and without internal resource constraints, project timelines, or new burdens for your IT team. Data scientists collect and analyze data to develop models that continuously improve by adding new capabilities, such as:

  • Alerting
  • Checklists
  • Process digitalization
  • Predictive and prescriptive analytics
  • Machine learning
  • Anomaly detection

Buyld integration is the best way to drive value from both internal and external assets. Enterprises should look for vendors that provide both best-of-breed solutions and open platform architecture.

IoT Maturity: What to Expect for the Future of Sensing-as-a-Service

Technology, the market, and regulations all change rapidly. A Sensing-as-a-Service solution must be flexible and agile enough to support continuous improvement; if not, your more innovative competitors will start grabbing your market share. IoT adoption has six distinct stages of maturity that influence business progression and operational outcomes:

  • Embedded devices: improved communication between devices collecting and transmitting data — light, motion, temperature, humidity, gas, pressure, and proximity, among others.
  • Cloud computing: rapid aggregation and transfer of data from multiple devices to a single cloud platform connecting all network sensors to generate statistical reports identifying normal behavior, hierarchies, excursions, and exceptions.
  • 100% IoT connectivity: a powerful tool providing real-time detection of anomalies breaking established limits, thereby enabling proactive prevention.
  • Predictive analytics: a statistical technique that analyzes patterns, trends, and correlations in historical data to forecast future behavior and inform human decision-making processes that improve efficiency.
  • Prescriptive analytics: clear and accurate directives that guide decision-making and execution in real time with specific descriptive insights to deliver an optimized outcome.
  • Generative AI: in the near future, a GenAI engine will use machine learning to create new standard operating procedures not currently imagined by the organization's human staff.


Becoming familiar with each stage within the IoT adoption maturity curve is helpful for enterprise leaders looking for a lens through which to understand their organization’s current level of technological sophistication while potentially preparing for new levels of advancement.

Now is the time to adopt the Sensing-as-a-Service framework as tool of empowerment that gives organizations the operational agility they need to drive revenue growth and sustain success. Learn more about our state-of-the art solutions for healthcare, pharmacy, and retail grocery that can meet your requirements today…and tomorrow.

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