Today’s high-tech has exploded across our world, disrupting traditional business models, encouraging innovation at an increasingly faster pace and connecting humans, data and systems in ways we could have only dreamed of just a few years ago. Does it sound like Star Trek? With the internet of things (IoT) — the next generation of everything being interconnected — we have to ask ourselves: What’s the value? I mean, do I really need my washing machine to send me a text message when a cycle is over? How much IoT is too much tech? Let’s examine when IoT is valuable and when it’s not.
When is IoT valuable?
The value of IoT is in the information produced by the devices: sensors, actuators and connectivity. And, to create value from voluminous, volatile IoT across multiple channels, the data must be integrated and analyzed at increasingly demanding velocities. IoT creates value when the intelligence improves industry, making operational insight actionable. IoT is most valuable when it changes business processes through innovation, automation and orchestration, reducing often manual, labor-intensive or invasive tasks, minimizing data anomalies, adding value and productivity to workforce activities, improving customer experience and employee engagement. Further, IoT adds value by reducing risk, reducing costs and reducing working capital requirements, all of which can have a material, measurable impact on an organization’s financials.
What’s new? It’s the tech. IoT enables incredibly small, sophisticated and sensitive sensors and other data-collection devices, affixed to multitudinous forms of instruments, machinery and equipment to detect micro changes in temperature, weight, gaseous, proximity, light, sound and other conditions.
Back to the washing machine. Whirlpool, the world’s largest manufacturer of home appliances, has been innovating with IoT for years. Their next-generation IoT program has impacted their business model in near real-time — failure detection, predictive maintenance, supply chain management, warranty management, etc. — all of which are helping Whirlpool focus, disrupt and win in an increasingly crowded, complex global appliance market.
When is IoT not so valuable?
IoT is not valuable when it doesn’t enable organizations to focus, disrupt and win. For many, this means competing more effectively and efficiently. For others, it means a lack of data governance. After all, who’s responsible for all of this wonderful data? Is it managed? Where is it stored? Is it secure? Does it comply with regulations? Suddenly, things can get complicated really fast.
Expectations of the promise of IoT run high, and technical deployments can be long, difficult and costly. There are a few challenges we have observed across several customers:
• Scalability: The degree to which IoT device, equipment, communications infrastructure, networking installation, configuration and testing is completed successfully, and service levels (consumer agreements) and operating levels (service providers) are within acceptable tolerances.
• Change/Flexibility: IoT devices, equipment, communications and network infrastructure conform to preferred industry standards and data protection policies.
• Variability: Standardization of the IoT architecture across business units using industry-preferred practices — that is, assure a significantly large “core” install (80%), reducing variability or customization (20% or less) — a key lesson learned from other enterprise-wide deployments. Catering to a particular business unit often costs much more over time.
• Operational Performance: Key delivery/execution excellence metrics to assure business unit acceptance and adoption.
• Decision Insight: While IoT itself is important, the true value of IoT is in the data, and the ability to apply sophisticated analytics and automated machine learning to the data, giving senior management access to more timely, accurate and consistent information across all business operations. This is essential but often overlooked or considered too late in the program.
Is IoT valuable? Absolutely. IoT, empowered with sophisticated AI, can lower costs, drive higher workforce productivity, increase employee engagement, promote higher customer satisfaction and, ultimately, boost financial performance.
The future is IoT. Not in its current incarnation, but certainly in some much more advanced AI-enabled form. Everything will be “smart.” We will touch it, wear it, interact with it, make it do what we want, when we want, how we want, and it will be constantly improving, either by us or, with AI, by itself.
Just like the Industrial Revolution launched multiple tech evolutions — impacting almost everything in our world — the next IoT “waves” will do the same, just much faster and with increasingly greater impact. So, if you haven’t talked to your microwave lately, it could be feeling lonely, and maybe it’s updating your Facebook page with a few unfriendly frowns. Yes, IoT will make our world better. And you will fall in love with all of your tech, especially when your Alexa-enabled toaster detects your imminent departure and reminds you to “Have a nice day! Thank you so much.”