As overused catch phrases go, the Internet of Things (IoT) is showing a lot of stamina. I suspect this is due in equal parts to the potential revolutionary nature of the IoT world, and the fact that we’re in the early days of a sector that is largely still being defined.
Among our customers, there may be disagreement on the precise definition of the IoT, but overwhelming enthusiasm for the potential of where it will take their industries. The question at the front of all of their minds: How can the IoT enable better business decision-making, and ultimately drive greater revenue opportunities?
The answer lies in starting with the customer’s desired business outcomes. What, specifically, are they looking to improve? Perhaps it’s the creation of new revenue sources, or a reduction in operational costs, or increased uptime on machines. Any one of those can be accelerated through better access to and analysis of existing data, driving bottom line results. Focusing on the business needs, rather than the IT application, becomes a meaningful and measureable foundation for an IoT implementation plan.
It’s also important to not let the customer’s enthusiasm for IoT lead to unnecessary (and expensive) infrastructure spending. Whenever possible, we encourage customers to utilize their existing technology infrastructure, both for reasons of familiarity and efficacy, and to maximize their investments. IoT need not be a “rip and replace” approach.
With a targeted plan and appropriate infrastructure in place, a smart IoT strategy may enable any or all of the following outcomes:
Improved asset management: Rather than waiting days or weeks for data on assets such as manufacturing equipment and vehicle fleets, an IoT solution delivers information very quickly, often in near real-time. This enables proactive maintenance before performance suffers or costly breakdowns occur. It also helps companies scheduling maintenance and gives manufacturers and support firms a more accurate idea of when preventative maintenance is needed.
Better products and services: Prior to the IoT, companies had greater reliance on slow, expensive research and subjective customer self-reports to understand how to improve their products over time. Now, connected devices and sensors will let them understand in great detail how customers use their products and services, free of filters.
Improved preventative maintenance and failure prediction: The data unlocked from machines and devices can be leveraged to send alerts when events occur that can indicate possible future failure. Getting this information in advance can allow field service personnel to provide accurate fixes the first time rather than simple routine maintenance. Data can also be used to analyze trends in corrected errors to predict and minimize future failures.
Streamlined business processes: When machines can talk to each other, less human intervention is required to keep things moving along. Generally, removing manual steps from a process results in increased speed and reduced costs. By enabling machines and sensors to interact directly with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, companies can automate marketing, communications, service scheduling, billing, account management, and more.
Increased supply chain agility: The field of logistics was one of the driving forces behind early development of the IoT approach. Many leading companies use it to minimize inventories, reduce shipping times, lower fuel costs, and predict future needs.
Enhanced collaboration: When real-time data is available instantly to everyone in an organization, service, support, and sales teams can work together to deliver a better customer experience. When a complex problem arises and incidents need to be escalated, experts from multiple locations can easily form virtual support teams. The need for on-site diagnostics and service can be greatly reduced, and incident to resolution time slashed.
Data is a corporate asset with transformational value to enterprise business processes. Transforming raw data into useful information requires intelligent systems and processes, which are ideally framed in a broader plan that focuses on achieving specific business outcomes. With this approach, the IoT is becoming more understood, and even more valued, in multiple industries.
Dave Wagstaff serves as Bsquare‘s Vice President and Chief Architect, a position he has held since November 2013. In this role, Wagstaff drives a comprehensive and integrated strategy for all Bsquare products including the company’s Internet of Things offerings.