• January 19, 2017

The New Frontier: Lasso the Power of IoT to Transform

Getting the most out of recent advances in technology means reinventing the enterprise once again.

By Marc Wilkinson, Chief Technologist & Mobility Global Practice lead, Enterprise Services

We are locked in the throes of a historical transformation, one that is perhaps more dramatic and impactful than any such event that has preceded it. The traditional industrial way of doing business no longer works. It’s under siege and must evolve. Consider this: Since 1965, real economic value has shifted from stocks of knowledge—what we know—to flows of new knowledge we can quickly acquire. The upshot of this new dynamism is that the most valuable technological advances are those that speed up the flow of knowledge.

That is exactly what Internet of Things (IoT) technologies—sensors, mobile devices, analytics—do. They speed up the flow of knowledge, adding thrust to enterprise transformation. Fueled by the consumerization of IT, IoT is everywhere. Cameras post pictures and video online. Automated home devices allow remote monitoring and the control of security systems, lighting, heating, and other appliances.

Enterprises and the Riddle of IoT

How can the IoT be used by enterprises to create new business value? How can we exploit the value locked in the network of connected things? How do we move beyond the noise? IoT and smart products and services foster an internet of everything, bringing together data from devices, people, and processes to address business and social needs. These needs were virtually impossible to address in the past, particularly in relation to employee empowerment and the creation of elevated customer experiences.

Yet this synthesis is not just about collecting data, a process that, on its own, just creates more information noise. It’s about enabling the ability to act on the data, to respond to business moments in real time. In many situations enterprises can actually predict oncoming business moments, allowing them to anticipate and take action before they occur. To optimize these moments and generate greater value, enterprises should strive to automate these predictive actions wherever and whenever possible.

Additional insights generated by IoT technologies can dramatically improve business intelligence. These insights and capabilities allow the enterprise to be much more dynamic in its operations. These processes can now have real-time context, creating actionable intelligence. This compares to static processes that must be overlaid with complexity to deal with every possible condition.

IoT-Enabled Intelligence

For example, just knowing that a shopper is standing in front of a particular retail shelf is of little value to the retailer, manufacturer, or customer—unless this “knowledge” is used to generate value. The consumer might be offered a one-time discount on a product. To have lasting impact, these offers must be personalized and contextual. They must be based on accurate data about the current position of the customer and their past buying behaviors.

Another example: An activity tracker might record my exercise, but without intelligence and insight, all it really does is store this data on my smartphone and allow me to view it. It addresses a personal need, but it really doesn’t reach its full potential until I can share the data securely. When tracker data combines with other useful health information and is shared with a healthcare provider, these devices empower proactive health management strategies.

Muscled-Up Networks

With IoT, enterprises can leverage a potentially massive network of data sources, proxy managers, aggregators, data processing and analytics engines, and consumers. To optimize and get the most out of these networks, enterprise leaders need to make a key architectural decision: Are the data sources going to be “dumb” producers or slightly less dumb producers that can handle two-way communications? Both approaches have benefits and disadvantages in terms of security and flexibility.

In the future, the intelligence of sensors at the edge will grow by leaps and bounds. We will see extremely high-density memory systems, like those offered by memristor technology. Memristors will enable a new generation of smart sensors and devices with enough computing power to accomplish local processing tasks. Only unusual or anomalous occurrences would be flagged and channeled to centralized systems.

Where Will IoT Take Us?

Today, most of the attention surrounding IoT has focused on three things:

  •       Sensors and data collection
  •       Analytics and processing the increased data footprint
  •       Wearables making the technology easier to keep with you

Yet, like the phone-in-mobility sphere, we need to look beyond these focal points. To maximize the value of IoT (and mobility), business processes and applications need to be reimagined based on newly available capabilities and information. This ideation and transformation are critical elements that cannot be overlooked.

IoT and related technologies such as artificial intelligence can further drive the automation of not just data analysis but other routine processes, freeing up resources to be dedicated to getting the most out of emergent tech. After all, the human element is essential to inject necessary levels of judgment into these processes. IoT and artificial intelligence systems can answer questions, but they can’t formulate and ask questions or interpret the data within the full context. Yet.

The transformative power and future potential for IoT technologies is enormous. IoT is a catalyst of disruptive change that could transform our personal and business lives significantly. The benefits of automation and improvements in decision-making and insight means IoT will impact virtually every area of life. Governments, industries, and organizations often react to sweeping new technologies Canute-like, trying to hold back the waves. Yet anything short of fully embracing this mounting technological wave will surely result in extinction.

The key: As enterprises discover and test, refine and validate new ways to incorporate IoT technology into business processes, they need to ensure these changes ultimately drive value. IoT is not just about creating a huge range of cool and connected stuff. It’s about discovering the new—if elusive—business and social value that will drive enterprise performance.

Welcome to the technology singularity.


Like this article? Read more about securing the IoT here.