Whether your business is a large-scale enterprise or a growing start-up, realising the full potential of IoT isn’t necessarily straightforward. The technology is evolving fast, it can be hard to know which IoT technology to invest in, and it can also be difficult to explain the value of your investment to stakeholders and employees. Embarking on a successful IoT journey means organisations must build a powerful business case first. The IoT industry needs to remember this and approach new and existing customers with relatable value-driven propositions, rather than dense technical detail.
While increased device connectivity and security are important in unlocking value and innovation for global IoT deployments, the user, and the use case, must be the focus to deliver successful transformational projects.
Examples of these transformations are already evident in the oil and gas industry, where IoT sensors that monitor inventory levels of onshore oil tanks automatically dispatch trucks when the tanks need to be emptied. Real-time oil tank sensor notifications enable continuous pumping while optimising inventory transportation and minimising downtime costs. Cloud-based digital dashboard visualisations convey information in an insightful manner that drives improved decision-making across the industry.
Similarly, in healthcare, IoT enables medical professionals to be more watchful and proactively connect with patients. Data collected from IoT devices is transmitted directly to physicians to help streamline patient pathways and achieve better outcomes. In hospitals, IoT devices tagged with sensors are used for tracking the real-time location of medical equipment like wheelchairs, defibrillators, nebulizers, oxygen pumps and other monitoring equipment.
As these examples demonstrate, IoT is all about the enhancement of business processes and solutions. Good ideas can often struggle to scale, but the tech industry solves problems quickly, and we’re now seeing large-scale IoT programmes deliver meaningful organisational change. As the deployment problem is solved, companies are discovering that IoT is about more than a technology roll-out. It is tightly bound with the very fabric of how companies operate. The next stage of IoT needs to move from ‘what can technology do?’ to ‘how can we combine technology and people to deliver real transformation?’
IoT isn’t simply about gathering data
A defining feature of IoT is its ability to connect the physical and digital worlds. Data literacy is important, but the resilient enterprise is an organisation constantly sensing its operational environment, be that offline or online, and is situationally aware of all its assets: customers, employees, products, databases, and Business Intelligence (BI) applications – at any time, all of the time. IoT devices record and transfer data to monitor important processes, and these data give us new insights, boost efficiency, and allow companies to make more informed decisions. They tell organisations what’s really happening, rather than what they assume, or hope is happening.
Those organisations are full of people making decisions, so make sure any IoT deployment has users at the centre of the strategy.
Connection, connection, connection
As already mentioned, deploying IoT infrastructure is only an initial step. The other key element of an IoT strategy is making it interoperate with the other layers of enterprise applications, platforms, and networks, which make IoT a ‘solution’ rather than just a deployment.
The considerations depend greatly on the type of application, its physical location, the number of devices that must be connected, whether cellular/mobile, Wi-Fi, or Ethernet WAN is needed for primary or backup connectivity, as well as the importance of the data provided, and data throughput required.
This category of private cellular is probably receiving the greatest attention from many newcomers to the sector, as well as external observers such as analysts and journalists. The most likely reason for this is the expected proliferation of private 5G networks. It ties in with many of the newest trends around cloud and edge-computing, AI and machine learning (ML) in factories, robots and automated vehicles in warehouses, security cameras and more general IoT / smart building use-cases. It aligns with many of the “transformation” projects in IT, plus some parts of the Operational Technology (OT) space such as smart manufacturing.
Making IoT secure
Security is on everyone’s mind today as cyber hackers continue to invent ways to access back-end systems and hack into networks. If you have a wired system, it’s simply much less accessible by outside forces. Therefore, one of the challenges with moving to an IoT solution is that companies potentially open themselves up to more risk, unless they have a sound security strategy in place.
Fortunately, both the strategies and the technologies for improving cybersecurity are now far more advanced than they were and have allowed wireless technologies and cloud platforms to become the device management platform of choice for many top Fortune 500 companies. Savvy companies are realising that they must employ a sophisticated set of security tactics.
eSIMs are enabling enterprises to take control
For IoT to achieve its desired levels of market disruption and value delivery for enterprises, it must move towards a device localisation approach. eSIM decouples the SIM from the operator so that network providers can be switched remotely over-the-air. This flexible framework enables companies to adapt to the local market that the device is deployed in and avoid the limitations of the roaming model.
An eSIM can be embedded into any device and makes managing connectivity simple, regardless of where it is in the world. It provides an option to manage device connectivity and a tool to authenticate the user onto a network. Any IoT device can be set up so the eSIM quickly authenticates to your platform.
This can work whether it’s using Wi-Fi, or wireless connectivity like 5G that will allow for unprecedented and greater quality of service and even more secure and efficient connectivity. It can then talk to any other device on that platform, regardless of how each is connected or what app they are controlled by. This simplifies onboarding and opens new opportunities for apps to work together. You can then build a family of technology on top of it.
IoT companies must figure out how to become part of the ‘solution conversation’. That conversation will be different for different customers, and it won’t be about just the technical enablement solution.
It comes down to education. People like building cool devices, but the underlying connectivity service must be there, or it won’t work for the user. Businesses need to focus on what it is they’re trying to solve, what they’re trying to improve, and how IoT – and connectivity – will play into that. If there’s a message to vendors that are trying to sell IoT to enterprises, it’s to help them understand exactly that – in plain English. That’s where the value lies.