A few news outlets became very excited by some stats presented in a just released ITU report. They claim the ITU report shows Sweden as having the highest IoT penetration, with New Zealand a distant second. Australia did not even make the top 20, but the figures don’t bear close scrutiny.
Here’s how MediaPost’s ioTDaily ConnectedThings reported the news. “Leading IoT-Connected Countries: Sweden, New Zealand, Norway; U.S. Ranks #7” Another article was headlined “Scandinavia leaps ahead of everyone in IoT deployment.” It then quoted from the ITU report the statement that the countries with the highest machine-to-machine penetration rates were highly industrialised, advanced economies, including the northern European countries of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. Which of course does not explain why New Zealand should be number two and Germany and Korea at 16 and 17 respectively.
The ITU report explained how the table had been compiled. “Countries were rated based on the number of machine-to-machine subscriptions per 100 mobile cellular subscriptions.” So that’s hardly a reliable indicator of IoT penetration. M2M is only a subset of IoT, not all IoT devices are connected via cellular networks and one cellular connection might support many IoT devices, the types of application being a likely determinant of the number.
There was also another problem that the press reports did not mention: the figures were 18 months old, and in the rapidly changing world of IoT that’s a long time.
However there was an even bigger problem that the ITU did not mention. I was rather sceptical about these results so I did a bit of digging and came across the OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2015, with similar figures for M2M penetration dating from December 2014.
It said: “There is no official methodology yet to define the limits of M2M SIM cards. National telecoms regulators in some OECD countries have begun to release M2M SIM card figures along with mobile and wireless broadband subscriptions. However M2M users may still be mixed in with other subscriptions. The indicators presented here are therefore in the initial stages of development.”
So, without more data the figures are not necessarily even accurate representations of M2M take up, let alone IoT penetration. For what they are worth, here are the two sets of figures.