The idea of an enterprise connecting devices, objects and other things is nothing new. Over the past several years, many organizations have experimented with RFID, beacons, sensors, automation platforms, mobile technology and a spate of other systems.
“If you go back a few years, business and IT leaders were mostly kicking the tires on the IoT,” observes Craig McNeil, managing director of the IoT business for consulting firm Accenture. “Now we are beginning to see companies investing heavily in the IoT. They recognize that it represents the future of business.”
Make no mistake, as data becomes the new currency and the desire for insight into processes and activities grows, the internet of things will play a key role. However, establishing a clear IoT strategy and building a framework to transform ideas and concepts into systems that generate revenue can be challenging. Not only must business and IT leaders connect a spate of technologies and systems, but they also must manage partnerships, oversee APIs, and deal with security and privacy concerns.
The IoT’s many dimensions and touchpoints make managing this technology even more complex. “You have to understand how the IoT can generate value both internally and externally,” states Debbie Krupitzer, practice lead, Digital Manufacturing and Industrial Internet of Things for North America at consulting firm Capgemini. “Does it cut costs? Does it improve performance or efficiency? Does it make life easier or better for employees or customers? Does it make a product or service more engaging?”
Without answering some of these key questions, it’s impossible to build a platform for success.
Putting Connections to Work for the Business
As the IoT moves from the periphery to the center of an enterprise undergoing a digital transformation, that organization must first determine where the opportunities lie and how the enterprise can take advantage of them. This requires a different mindset and a different approach than in times past.
A starting point is to understand that business and IT leaders must work in new, more collaborative ways to identify where value exists. IT must support the endeavor with an agile, flexible IT infrastructure that, among other things, taps clouds, mobility, APIs, artificial intelligence (AI), real-time connectivity and advanced analytics.
Accenture’s McNeil says that it’s important to identify potential use cases before diving into an initiative. These often revolve around financial impact and cost drivers, but they may also touch on business opportunities and remapping processes, workflows and customer interactions to unlock untapped and previously hidden value. New and different thinking is paramount.
“Oftentimes, it’s really about experimenting with sensors and data inputs to see what makes sense for the business,” McNeil explains. Of course, not every organization can be a disruptor, and not every situation benefits from connected devices and systems. However, “The thing to recognize is that the IoT has value for every industry,” he says. “It’s all about finding the opportunities.”
For example, McNeil points to a tire manufacturer that began embedding sensors in tires—not only to help customers know when they need more air in the tires, but also so that the manufacturer could better understand usage and wear patterns. “Over time, when you use sensors, you learn which sensors are most useful, how they work and what you’re measuring under different conditions,” he says. “Eventually, you learn how to design a better product or adjust the pricing structure.”