How businesses are using IOT to deliver highly intelligent solutions
In SA, businesses are using IOT for two trends in particular: improving customer experiences, and optimising supply chains, says Bernhard Kloss, director of the Industrial Automation and Control business at EOH.
When IOT first came on the scene, we were regaled with stories of how our fridge would order our milk, or our central heating would automatically turn on when your phone is detected coming into range. But in reality, IOT is far more significant than this and is quietly entering our lives in a multitude of ways, says Bernhard Kloss, director of the Industrial Automation and Control business at EOH.
We probably all come into contact with an IOT solution at some point during our day without knowing it; the camera counting cars in traffic, or your access card at the gym, but it's the business impact of IOT that is having the greatest effect on our lives.
Forrester's Predictions 2018 report argues that the business impact of IOT falls into three core areas; design, which relates to improving customer experiences; operate, offering benefits such as predictive maintenance, and consume, which is about connecting data from third parties.
Far from ordering our milk, IOT is being used by big business to deliver highly intelligent solutions. In South Africa, businesses are using IOT for two trends in particular: improving customer experiences, and optimising supply chains.
IOT is designing better customer experiences
Businesses are increasingly trying to create better experiences for their customers and help influence their purchasing decision. However, with POPI and GDPR, privacy restrictions mean that accessing consumer information via databases is off limits.
So, manufacturers and FMCG companies specifically are designing novel ways to better understand their consumers, thereby acquiring data that is exactly prescribed to their needs.
For instance, some FMCG brands place cameras close to vending machines to see who buys what, and when. Or at a point of sale, where customers are asked to enter a competition or complete their details when they purchase an item.
Interestingly, this move is also driven by the consumer. In one respect, customers now expect their IOT devices to adjust and refine services and capabilities based on real-world context, and secondly, customers expect services to be automatically improved and learnt over time. Demonstrating that customer expectations are also driving this development.
Finding novel ways to access what was previously considered 'simplistic' data, means businesses can now improve their customer experience using IOT.
Optimising supply chains through traceability
The second business area where IOT is being adopted at a rate of knots is supply chain optimisation. To improve operations, business wants visibility over its entire supply chain.
Full transparency of the supply chain provides businesses with the information they need to improve, optimise, and identify trends. Added to this, they can quickly identify where things go wrong. In the US, the FDA requires all FDA registered companies to be able to trace an error or incident within four hours.
Similarly, airlines will soon be attaching tracking devices to our luggage to streamline the drop off and collection process to simplify the travel experience, but also to minimise lost luggage and the resulting compensation claims.
In the mining and manufacturing sector, businesses are looking to improve efficiencies wherever possible, and traceability and transparency enable predictive analytics. Using predictive analytics, manufacturers or mines can produce specific materials for specific purposes.
By monitoring the performance of machinery, manufacturers and mines, can anticipate problems, and take preventative measures against downtime rather than incurring the cost of repair. Preventative measures can allow businesses to reorganise operations to accommodate machinery being offline and still ensure productivity remains at the level required to deliver on customer contracts. All this data is then fed back into the business to help inform further efficiencies.
The result? The business impact of IOT is that its helping businesses make cognitive decisions that are by their nature, fact-based and can deliver proactive solutions.
Cognitive computing and IOT allow businesses to achieve their fullest potential.
Already, fraud detection in the banking sector is improving. Previously fraud detection was reactive: now it can be preventative, whereby banks detect fraud by monitoring customer usage patterns and freezing a card if the usage looks irregular.
In the past it was difficult to imagine turning a simple task into something intelligent, now businesses can benefit from the autonomous capabilities IOT offers. While banking usage patterns may not be simple, consider traffic lights by comparison, something we pass every day and take for granted. Thanks to IOT we can count cars at peak and off peak times and turn this into actionable insights about traffic volumes, pollution, vehicle purchases, commuter information, and much more.
But to leverage the intelligence IOT and cognitive computing is giving us, our businesses need to plan for the skills of the future too. While some mundane tasks will become redundant, other tasks such as understanding and reading predictive systems will become essential.
Although IOT helps by automating some mundane tasks, this is by no means the full extent of its value. For business large and small, human skillsets will adjust. Roles will become more about understanding how to use high volumes of data, in real-time, to gather intelligent insights that can be turned into action.
There are several debates about hybrid roles as one example. How many of your employees could be empowered to learn new skills and add more value to your business?
IOT applied in an organisational perspective is totally transformative. It improves every area of a business; marketing, financial forecasting and strategy, human resource and skills development, operations and supply chain, with preventative measures, risk mitigation and improved efficiencies.
Designing holistic solutions is the longer term goal for IOT infrastructure. Companies that bring together IOT, robotics, industrial software, cloud and big data, will experience a seismic shift in the way they operate and compete in their industry sector.
Suddenly, and it will be sudden, businesses will create an ability to understand their customers and operations on a completely different level, and from a completely different perspective. This is where digital transformation within organisations will accelerate beyond compare.
Bernhard Kloss is director of the Industrial Automation and Control business at EOH. He has 20 years' experience in the industry and was previously a director of the Industry Division at Schneider Electric and spent 18 years at Siemens, in numerous roles that included director of Oil and Gas and Global Corporate account manager for SABMiller. He has a passion for industry-specific software-based solutions.