As business infrastructure transforms from isolated silos to Internet-connected objects, executives want to take advantage of the explosion of information that flows from their growing number of connected assets. For organizations looking to the Internet of Things for digital innovation, here are five steps that should help them jump-start a successful IoT journey.
1. Build the business case
First, decide on the objective. Look beyond the buzz, define your business goals and articulate the value proposition. Look into instances where opportunities can be created by connecting the objects, and determine how the machine data harnessed from different sources (devices and sensors) can shrink operating expenses, redefine customer experience, improve efficiency and create insights for timely decisions.
For instance, telecom operators with high operating costs have to figure out ways to save on energy bills and logistics expenses. A supply chain management company might not focus only on real-time tracking of cargo location but also on the condition of the asset in transit.
In fact, IoT technology may provide benefits to all industries – from manufacturing, transport, healthcare, consumer electronics and utilities to insurance and more. The table below summarizes some of the benefits of the Internet of Things.
|Financial Benefits||Operating Benefits||Customer Benefits|
|New revenue opportunities through new products||Reduced downtime due to predictive maintenance through remote asset management||Better customer experiences|
|Reduced operational costs due to higher energy efficiencies and increased resource utilization||Stock-out prevention with auto-replenished inventory||Improved collaboration and faster response times|
|Value-added services to supplement traditional lines of business||Asset automation helps preserve unattended assets during uncertain or adverse conditions||Ability to predict customer requirements and behavior|
2. Select the right IoT platform and solution provider
Beware of the pitfalls of complexity that come with running multiple systems based on multiple point solutions. Experts recommend partnering with an IoT platform vendor that offers a complete, unified framework for all your IoT requirements.
Choose the right partner for introducing IoT into your business model. Many midsized-to-large enterprise software vendors have forayed into the IoT market in recent years, offering IoT products, but few are complete IoT platforms that solve IoT objectives. Without a complete platform, one might have to depend on different partners to develop and market breakthrough IoT products and services. This will increase the complexity and cost of system integration today and expanding capabilities tomorrow. Different IoT solutions offer functional point products – to address monitoring, billing, application development or device management functions, for instance – but lack the comprehensive IoT framework of a unified platform.
While choosing the right IoT platform, focus on two critical criteria: open APIs that facilitate seamless integration with your existing third-party systems; and robust developer tools that accelerate application development.
3. Build and test
The IoT value chain is all about integration, from sensors to edge devices, gateways to enterprise systems and beyond. A major challenge to realizing the full promise of IoT applications is that one system must integrate all components of the IoT value chain. But unlocking the potential from tens of thousands of intelligent things is not easy, due to the diverse protocol and communication standards they require.
Building IoT applications from scratch requires a considerable amount of time and resources. An IoT architecture with hundreds of APIs would simplify the task of interoperability among heterogeneous objects. APIs are the key to innovation as they enable developers to build applications rapidly. IoT deployments spanning a wide range of vertical markets can benefit from this proven architecture.
The core asset of IoT applications is the sensor data. When the sensors are generating huge amounts of data, analyzing and deriving real-time insights from that data is a major challenge. Prepare your business to handle that magnitude and variety of data as the number of device types and devices might scale in the future.
From a functional standpoint, complex algorithms are required to transform the sheer volume of data into business intelligence. A powerful data analytics tool is critical to unlock the data value for day-to-day business decisions. A Hadoop-based big data and analytics module enables you to shape huge volumes of unstructured data generated from diverse data sources for a more agile and predictive business environment. So, it is crucial to go with an IoT platform with big data and analytics capabilities to fuel a data-driven business.
5. Manage and maintain
Stay cool! Managing your remote assets is no longer a nightmare when big data, mobility and cloud are ingrained in your IoT architecture. Mobile apps complement IoT as you can take control of assets on the move by receiving alerts and notifications when there is any deviation in the connected devices’ predefined values.
For instance, a facilities manager for a cell tower site may receive real-time updates on the fuel status of a diesel generator. Similarly, a smartphone with in-built sensors also acts as a connectivity hub with the ability to interact with the environment and paves the way for myriad applications to be developed. An example: Personal healthcare applications can integrate accelerometers, pedometers and gyroscopes. Clearly, IoT solutions become more valuable when they are accompanied by mobile apps.