The Internet of Things (IoT) represents an opportunity for organisations to leverage smart and connected devices to build, distribute and manage their products and services more effectively.
The full value of IoT cannot be realised by simply connecting new devices. Rather, organisations must move past instrumentation and focus on the impact that IoT devices can have on business strategies at a larger scale.
Encouraging the implementation of IoT at scale provides organisations with the opportunity to move from “edge” to “engagement”. In embracing industrial scale IoT, organisations will move from connecting with intelligence on the edge to leveraging intelligence for transforming business operations and reimagining business models.
Why is scale important?
Scale to IoT is important as no element of this ‘system of systems’ can work effectively in isolation. A classic example of this is data. In the future, companies will take for granted that ambient data captured from the physical world will inform their products, processes and customer service. Indeed, collecting and analysing as much of this data as possible will become a priority for businesses, as they look for insights about how they can better serve their customers.
Once these devices are correctly installed and monitored, from creation, to manufacturing, to use, and finally to their demise, connected devices are constantly providing value through the data they harvest. This data leads to subsequent learnings about a business’s stakeholders, whether they be suppliers, manufacturers, partners or customers. Going further, recognising IoT as a ‘system of systems’ means that the value of a single intelligent object is multiplied ten-fold throughout its lifecycle, once it’s connected to other internet-connected devices around it.
This will bring about a shift in industry conversations, moving from how to connect products, to how to effectively use the insights resulting from instrumentation. In this way, IoT technologies will become commodities, and real value will arise from the analytics performed on the massive streams of contextual data created by the value chain.
Understanding the context of IoT will become vital for its survival in the coming years. Rather than solely discussing the devices associated with IoT, conversations will be centred on the purpose of IoT. For example, industry conversations about Shell’s new internet-connected fuel pumps will naturally shift to how Shell has undergone a digital transformation. The focus will be on how the business is now interacting with its customers in a completely different way, because of what they learned through their internet-connected environment. IoT will make waves across industry sectors such as Retail, Transportation, Utilities, Mining, Manufacturing, Logistics, Real Estate, etc.
Thinking about this digital disruption as a type of business transformation is imperative, as this business intelligence will drive efficiency, reduce waste, and enable predictive maintenance, while providing other undiscovered forms of value to organisations. IoT at scale, combined with Artificial Intelligence, provides the potential to transform businesses and human lives. While we are still a little away from this scenario of IoT at scale, organisations need to invest in IoT now to ensure they are prepared for future disruptions.
Connecting the IoT dots to reach scale
Current discussions around IoT are concentrated on individual components, as organisations increasingly saturate the market with singular elements. In reality, these singular products should just be seen as part of a greater IoT solution. In order to ensure sustainable business growth, organisations need to take IoT to scale, placing an equal emphasis on instrumentation and actionable insight.
The complexity of individual technologies and their integration is often considered the reason why many businesses only focus on singular aspects of IoT, such as sensor selection. For IoT to attain industrial scale, challenges such as standardisation and interoperability would need to be addressed. The goal of IoT is for individual systems to seamlessly interact with one another in the physical world, and become invisibly embedded into the workplace, and our daily lives.
Organisations should look to implement a three-tier architecture to manoeuvre through the complexity of scaled IoT application:
- Edge devices and sensors
- Connectivity through communication protocol support, translation support, edge monitoring, as well as the analysis of devices and data
- An analytics platform, consisting of cloud-based data storage, and big data analytics integrated with existing systems
Using this three-tier architecture, businesses can build an effective and connected ecosystem. As organisations realise the value of data and insights that IoT can provide, they will realise that data streams that sit in isolation only hold a fraction of their potential value.
Recognising the importance of focusing on all aspects of IoT deployment, not just individual devices, is the first step in successfully implementing IoT at scale. Collecting, analysing, cross-analysing and comparing this data will help businesses better serve their customers. With this in mind, IoT must be implemented in a coordinated way, across multiple functions and with a vision of industrial scale, in order to truly succeed in realising its potential.
Read more: Beyond the hype: Getting value from the IoT
Gaurav Sharma is head of products and resources, ANZ, at Cognizant