Best practices for your enterprise's successful IoT transformation

As IoT shifts us from the Internet of Humans to the Internet of People and Things and how they interact, the factors for success move away from mastering the technology itself to how the products should be designed, and their interaction with the rest of the ecosystem.

smart city - wireless network - internet of things edge [IoT] - edge computing
Thinkstock

Devices are becoming software-defined whether we like it or not. Take cars for example: the Porsche Panamera 2016 model has over 2 million lines of code in its onboard software, the 2017 model has over 100 million. As software-defined devices continue to gain momentum, they are becoming more connected to each other – and to the organizations that created them.

Modern day connected devices have hundreds and thousands of sensors that communicate with one another, more frequently than a human ever will. This factor alone is set to overwhelm all existing technology backbones that we currently have in place.

Yes, it’s great to have a forward-looking mindset when it comes to IoT, but you should understand that it can be very time-consuming to design the IoT platform of the future, and it’s important to first consider if your connected device is adding value or not. Does the world really need a connected toaster with an app that shows you the morning weather? How does my device fit into today’s fast pace, tech-savvy lifestyle? Would someone pay a premium for this functionality?

Stay ahead in the race for the connected world

Much of today’s technology has been built for the internet of humans. In the larger discussion around IoT, it’s crucially important to remember that, alongside this network of connections, we are now introducing connected products and services.

Too much of the IoT discussion is a technology discussion. It is not just about connected devices, it is not even about smart devices. It is about pivoting from the Internet of Humans to the Internet of People and Things and their interactions with each other.

Unfortunately, the majority of innovation in IoT over the last ten years has been led by technologists. This is clear in the thousands of IoT devices that have emerged in the market. Being designed by device-centric technologists with a misunderstanding of the user-centric design aspects important to their potential owners, the user experience is often left out of the equation. Without designing with the user in mind the entire movement of IoT is at risk of descending instead into an Internet of Devices.

Design products for reliability and security

The Amazon S3 Outage last year highlighted an issue with IoT products that have intelligence, and analytics capabilities in the cloud: Multiple customers could not open their garage doors, switch off their heating systems and other critical home functions when S3 went down. Designing connected products is not just a question of user experience, it requires a much more systemic approach – the complete end-to-end system should be designed for reliability and security. By focusing on both the user as well as reliability and security, edge analytics and computing will be brought to forefront.

Change your perception of networks

How we think about networks is going to change. Mobile networks were intended for mobile phones, but we are now moving from an Internet of Mobile to an Internet of Software. As Ivo Rook, SVP of IoT at Sprint recently commented at the ISG Digital Business Summit: Smartphones are complex use-cases in themselves, but at least their network usage is predictable (80 percent traffic is download traffic). Connected devices will have varying usages – a connected car could require gigabytes of download in each direction. How do these varying needs affect how you design your network and partner with your delivery vendors? Rook understands that designing the network as part of the entire system will require very close collaboration between the network and network equipment providers.

The way we design connected systems will change

A line of business is emerging as a buying center – as enterprises look for solutions to business problems or for specific outcomes instead of purchasing new technology. This, along with the need to bring information (IT) and operational technology (OT) together, is accelerated by the move towards open standards from proprietary ones. Standard bodies like the Open Device Net Vendor Association (ODVA) and International Society of Automation (ISA) are bringing together hardware and software companies to improve IoT development. Firms like Rockwell, Honeywell and Emerson now work closely with the likes of Intel, IBM and Cisco.

Here are a few questions to keep in mind when combining IT and OT:

  • If my providers come together to create solutions for me, how do I manage this dialog?
  • Which parts of the dialogue do I want to be the influencer and driver?
  • Who are the best contributors in this ecosystem?

The mining industry is a model to learn from: the IT departments in mining organizations report to the line of business, which is not typically found in other manufacturing organizations. The result? The mining industry shows early success patterns of how to implement the IT-OT bridge.

What’s next?

Early adopter organizations started in IoT with operational efficiency as their goal, primarily because this was an easier check to write. Now they are starting to discover the benefits of IoT in many areas, including customization on a large scale. Recently, CISCO showcased how Harley Davidson used connection in operations to cut down the delivery time of a custom bike from 18 months down to just two weeks.

Smart cities are also early adopters of IoT use cases because parking is typically the second or third highest revenue source for a city. A combination of online parking analytics with road surface temperature and sound level information have the potential to be used to design parking solutions and guide vehicles in real time. This is not only a possibility, but it also creates a return on investment too. Some cities have generated a 20 to 30 percent increase in parking revenue through implementation of connected technologies. With these kinds of returns, becoming a smart city – beginning with smart parking – makes sense from both a budget and enhanced city services point of view.

Starting design with value top-of-mind helps to shift focus on performance rather than the individual parts of the solution. Start by benchmarking yourself against peers in the industry and takeaway learnings from their use cases – and be sure to analyze where and how the money is being made. Your final call on IoT should not be a technical decision, it should be an overall judgement on whether to create the devices, use them, insure them or bankroll them – and which combination thereof makes the most sense. When developing and implementing IoT technologies, ask yourself: how will these decisions support the business outcome you desire?

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

NEW! Download the Fall 2018 digital issue of CIO