So you have the green light to embark on an Internet of Things (IoT) project. Now what?
For many manufacturers, municipalities, utilities, trucking companies and other organizations — the first step traditionally was hiring a systems integrator. The choice is because IoT was bespoke — along with the integrator combining hardware and software from multiple vendors to create a custom solution.
Systems Approach is Key to IoT Success and How to Get It
The hiring system integration takes — and wastes — a lot of time and a lot of money. The long lead time also means the organization has to wait to start seeing IoT’s business benefits.
IoT has matured to the point that coding and other specialized skills are minimized.
Today, enterprises can buy an industry-standard selection of hardware, software and services covering all of the key aspects of a successful IoT implementation.
IoT implementation requires device management, security, connectivity management, data orchestration, and support for their existing platforms, such as AWS.
The Systems Approach
This “systems” approach transforms the implementation process from an integration effort to a configuration experience.
The vendor behind the approach system has already taken care of all the underlying, enabling technologies and frameworks so the components work seamlessly together.
Examples include the processes that provision and provide each new IoT device and connects that device to the right network. The systems approach also selects the most cost-effective cellular data plan and updates its firmware, when necessary, to ensure security and functionality.
Eliminating the traditional integration groundwork provides a host of benefits.
For starters, enterprises now can launch their IoT projects faster, which means they begin experiencing business benefits faster. They also eliminate the expense of hiring an integrator.
A system frees a business unit, such as the supply chain and focuses on defining the IoT data and acting on it. For example, it can select rules for the type of data that each IoT edge device should upload, under what conditions, and which business platform should be used to analyze that data.
An IoT Vendor with Flexibility
These and other benefits don’t come at the price of vendor lock-in, either. The key is to choose a best-of-breed IoT vendor that gives customers the flexibility to select the system components they need.
An example of an IoT vendor is a leading, global industrial equipment manufacturer. This manufacturer combines a number of new and existing IT tools to provide new product lifecycle and service management tools.
The IoT system previously mentioned connects with and collects data from tens of thousands of pieces of equipment operating in the field. Each piece of equipment has built-in telematics subsystems with edge intelligence that captures data from all of the major parts of the equipment.
Securely connecting remotely to the subsystem enables the Company to manage the collection and transmission of hundreds, if not thousands, of key data elements.
The orchestration of the data ends up not just in one application, but in multiple places. The data is ingested by next-generation Cloud Systems (like AWS), Salesforce, SAP ERP and other custom enterprise applications.
Each of these systems combine to provide predictive analytics for maintenance, asset management for equipment location and operational performance, dealer support applications and customer support. All of these different OT and IT systems need the features of an IoT Systems Management Platform.
IT + OT = Digital Transformation
Which types of components does your IoT implementation need? Start by understanding the roles and domains of IT and OT.
For example, the IT department defines the security policies that will apply to the new IoT devices, services and applications. IT also is responsible for the software that each business unit uses to analyze and act on the IoT data. Often that’s software that the business already uses, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or traditional existing enterprise middleware.
Operational technology (OT) expertise typically resides in the business unit that will rely on IoT data on a daily basis. Gartner defines OT as “hardware and software that detects or causes a change, through the direct monitoring and control of industrial equipment, assets, processes and events.”
For example, in a factory, IoT sensors can track vibration, voltage levels, temperature, and other metrics that provide deep insights into equipment health.
This data enables industrial engineers and technicians to identify emerging problems before they escalate into extensive, expensive damage and downtime. Or worse previously unidentifiable performance degradations.
With this advance warning and analysis, plant managers can repair and optimize production lines so the company can meet its production goals.
By collaborating with the business unit where the OT expertise resides, IT can work toward its objectives and challenges. Together, they can look at the vendor’s portfolio and select the right IoT hardware, software, connectivity, services and other components.
Take communications. How much data will each IoT edge device send and receive? Is some or all of that data sensitive to high latency? What types of networks are already available, such as a wired or wireless LAN on the factory floor, or public cellular for an outdoor deployment such as monitoring construction equipment?
How does each network compare in terms of latency and bandwidth requirements? Will it provide a smooth transition to, and inclusion of a private cellular network?
Industrial Process Management
Another example is industrial process management. When it’s equipped with an IoT edge device, a connected machine is now part of an IoT system that requires management. This includes connectivity and the device itself, as well as data orchestration.
This process of close OT-IT collaboration also avoids surprises.
For instance, an IoT project won’t become a shadow IT nightmare if the business unit collaborates with IT from day one. IT also can ensure that the business unit understands all of the capabilities and tools that it needs to make the project a success.
All of this collaboration enables the organization to select the right components from a vendor whose solutions approach ensures that everything is designed for rapid, low-complexity deployment and easy, cost-effective operation over the long term.
Remember, with the systems approach — the result is a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
Image Credit: jenna hamra; pexels