IOT strategies unlock true business value
The Internet of things (IOT) is a burning discussion for industrial and commercial businesses across all sectors wanting to digitalise and remain competitive.
Businesses speak of the need to keep pace with the fourth industrial revolution, where a range of new technologies will fuse the physical, digital and biological worlds and have an impact on all industries.
IOT, in its broadest sense, connects things via sensors to the Internet, creating an ecosystem, or nervous system, that is able to communicate in all directions, ultimately leading to massive improvements in business efficiency.
Industrial IOT (IIOT) is a sector with a massive growth curve, and this is not confined to markets such as the US, Europe and the Far East. South African business leaders traditionally demonstrate incredible foresight in ensuring their enterprises remain on the cutting edge of strategy, both locally and internationally.
ITWeb, in partnership with pioneering IIOT company IoT.nxt, is conducting an online IOT survey during September to find out exactly how South African businesses are approaching their IOT plans as they plot to keep pace with the world and future-proof their businesses.
"The main objective of the survey is to ascertain at what level business leaders are aware of the benefits of IOT technology, and to what extent companies view this as a critical technology to be employed for business strategies," says Nico Steyn, CEO at IoT.nxt.
According to Steyn, South African enterprises are ready for the IOT revolution. South African business leaders, with their strategic insight, are becoming more and more in tune with both awareness and adoption of IOT strategies, he says. "With this survey, we hope to find out how local companies see IOT strategies and what their immediate plans are for implementation."
Research conducted by McKinsey & Company earlier this year discovered that although IIOT is in its early stages, almost all enterprises have an enterprise technology plan sketched out in their strategic road map.
However, Jim Fletcher of IBM Watson summed up an IOT problem when he said: "The biggest problem of industrial IOT is legacy equipment in the field, non-standardised protocols and the fact that there is no horizontal integration platform that brings all of this together, especially not something that can do bi-directional communication back into the edge and have these subsystems interoperate."
It is clear that an IOT platform needs to overcome this problem or else the obstacles will remain and business efficiencies won't be unlocked. While the rest of the market grapples with this challenge, IOT.nxt has developed an IOT framework, and scalable solution, that is technology agnostic with the ability to retrofit onto legacy equipment that directly overcomes the challenge of connecting any and all devices or systems, including analogue "things".
Failure to include IOT strategies will diminish competitiveness
Being able to introduce IOT strategies with minimal disruption to the business, and with provisions in place to upscale across the entire organisation, enables an enterprise to digitalise its operations in a manner that protects its competitiveness and relevance as the Fourth Industrial Revolution changes the way business is done.
"Using IOT strategies can unlock greater efficiencies and cost-savings, and provide decision-makers with real-time information about all aspects of their businesses. Not including IOT in a strategy denies companies these benefits and will, over time, diminish their competitiveness in the industries in which they operate," says Steyn.
Steyn says that a correctly implemented IOT strategy should create a completely interconnected, interoperable business ecosystem that leads to immediate efficiencies without disrupting business operations.
"Our solution," he says, "is technology-agnostic and is quick to implement as it is overlaid onto existing infrastructure. It is able to be retrofitted onto both new and existing equipment immediately and as organisations grow. The result is complete interconnectivity and intelligence at the edge, something our competitors are failing to do."
He goes on to highlight that the ROI for companies where IoT.nxt has implemented IOT solutions in South Africa has delivered way in excess of what was expected, in rapid time and often repaying the upfront investment within 12 months and multiples of the annual cost. "Once companies digitise they learn things about their operations that they never imagined and this knowledge can very quickly be used to improve processes further; an efficiency hyperloop!"
XHead = South African companies are striking while the iron is still hot
Although it is changing, South Africans have in the past looked at other markets as trendsetters, with South Africa playing catch-up. This has changed, and local companies, led by internationally competitive and astute business leaders, are competing at the edge of the advancement curve, with many enterprises already boasting successful IOT strategies.
Steyn says business leaders look for return on investment. Once the value is unlocked, they upscale rapidly. "We have engaged with a variety of SA companies in numerous industries over the past two years with many starting small, implementing IOT technology in one sphere of operations and, once value has been proved, roll-out to other operations is fast-tracked. Having a solution that is easily scalable is extremely valuable in this regard.
"We have had similar success in other industries, including farming, the automotive sector, manufacturing, heavy logistics such as ports, retail and telecoms, among others. The possibilities are endless."
South African companies, and companies in other African countries, face challenges such as broadband availability, being situated in remote locations as well as facing the perceived reality that all legacy systems need to be replaced. These challenges have delayed adoption of IOT strategies.
"We have made great inroads with our innovative solutions that require no immediate replacement of legacy systems. Because our solution is technology-agnostic, the process of implementation happens quickly. Then, moving intelligence to the edge helps us circumvent traditional data transfer issues.
"Interoperability is also a concern, but our solution addresses this with ease. The failure of many IOT and big data platforms is their inability to - independently - completely connect all facets of an organisation. IOT.nxt provides a differentiated application framework that does this and more. The companies who have decided to go ahead with this technology are on par with what has happened internationally, but overall the SA market has a way to go to largescale adoption and implementation."
IOT is not a trend, it is a reality
Industrial applications of IOT is a market with infinite possibilities and a steep growth curve. However, according to Steyn, the pioneers haven't even begun to unlock the true potential of the market.
"To be classified as an end-to-end IOT solution provider, a company's technology stack needs to be able to do a few different things. It must enable the trillion permutations of connections between 'things' - be they devices, sensors, systems or platforms. It must support the consolidation of all 'things' into a single view or dashboard, and it needs to serve as a bridging platform for other IOT and closed loop applications, without extensive bespoke development.
"Above all, it must provide real-time visualisation and normalisation of data, and enable the remote deployment of strategic changes based on insights gathered. At least that's according our definition, anyway!
"IOT is not an IT trend. IOT is bringing together IT and operational technology. It is a fundamental shift in how business is going to be done in the future. "
Steyn concludes by saying that using IOT technology is going to be as disruptive for doing business as the Internet has been.
Click here to complete the IOT survey and you could win a GoPro Camera Hero4.