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How China is Driving Industrial IoT Application Growth

Worldwide information and communications technology (ICT) spending -- including new technologies -- is expected to exceed $5.6 trillion in 2021 with growth accelerating through the end of the forecast period, according to the latest worldwide market study by International Data Corporation (IDC).

By 2021, new technologies, including Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, robots and drones, augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) headsets, and 3D printers, will account for almost a quarter (23 percent) of total ICT spending.

ICT Market Development

Overall, new technology investments -- including the four pillars of cloud, mobile, big data analytics, and social -- will make up more than 70 percent of worldwide ICT spending. IDC reports that the fastest-growing technology markets last year were AR/VR, cognitive and artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing, and robotics.

Meanwhile, IoT has already grown to account for 15 percent of ICT spending, including new operational technology software and services, which represent expanding opportunity and potential disruption for traditional software and services vendors.

But while the adoption of new technologies is broadly positive across all countries, there are key geographic differences in terms of early adoption and short-term opportunities.

"Mature economies are leading the way in some markets, thanks to more advanced cloud infrastructure and software innovation driving rapid adoption of solutions around big data and analytics, cognitive AI, and cloud-based software," said Stephen Minton, vice president at IDC.

According to the IDC assessment, it's a different story with technologies that are focused on industrial use cases in the manufacturing industry, such as IoT and robotics. Emerging leaders like China are driving much of the innovation in real-world deployments around these industry-focused technologies.

China accounted for 28 percent of worldwide IoT spending in 2017, and 29 percent of total robotics investments, compared to just 12 percent of traditional ICT spending categories (hardware, software, services and telecom).

Japan and some other Asia-Pacific countries are also early adopters of robotics and IoT. 3D printing has seen strong early adoption in China and Germany. Cognitive AI investments are dominated by U.S. businesses, who are also leading the way in AR/VR prototypes.

Emerging markets, such as India and Brazil, are major contributors to overall mobility spending, but are still playing catch up when it comes to cloud.

Outlook for ICT Market Growth

"While the traditional ICT market has become more homogenous in the last few years, as emerging markets caught up to mature economies and often leapfrogged legacy technologies in their adoption of mobile solutions, the 3rd Platform brings with it a new period of fragmentation," added Minton.

The U.S. is once again at the forefront of much new software innovation, while countries like China and Germany are driving industry-focused categories. Understanding these regional and country-level differences, including the drivers and inhibitors behind likely adoption curves for new technologies, will be key to ICT vendor strategy in the next 5-10 years.

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