What a difference a year makes. Last year at Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial manufacturing event, the Internet of Things (IoT) was omnipresent and impressive but primarily focused on the technology—on the gee-whiz factor derived from all the opportunities that could arise when you connect devices, people, and processes throughout the enterprise.
This year, expect to see more IoT applications that deliver business outcomes—those that demonstrate the benefits of IoT and the connectivity it enables, as well as the ease with which this connectivity is achieved. More important, attendees will have the opportunity to see demonstrations of IoT-enabled applications that make building a digitally connected enterprise easier and less expensive. In short, they’ll witness how and why the IoT is now the purview of business professionals, not technologists.
Why Does This IoT Transition Matter?
In just the past 12 months, innovations in IoT-enabled applications have made the digitally connected enterprise easier to understand and implement for specific business purposes. Three of the top benefits of building a digitally connected enterprise address nothing less than the core elements of most business strategies, including:
- Accelerating the speed of operations: Everything can be done faster and with less latency, from identifying and solving problems to anticipating and meeting customer demands.
- Increase revenue and enable new business models: New value propositions can be created by providing better service and developing new product/service offerings based on data about how customers use current products.
- Amplify automation: More work can be done at higher quality, in less time, and at less cost as businesses connect their processes, eliminating expensive, time-consuming manual tasks.
What’s New and Why Now?
The new IoT applications being demonstrated at Hannover Messe are designed to digitally enhance specific business functions. Unlike the arcane technology showcased in years past, which required specialists to design, deploy, and operate, the latest applications allow non-technologists to independently take advantage of IoT functionality. All the technologies they need are built into applications that are designed to implement purpose-built solutions. Also, the applications are available in the cloud, making them easier to deploy and integrate.
With these built-in IoT capabilities, users can access one application to get started very quickly in a particular business function. For example, with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities embedded in applications, analyzing the unprecedented amounts of data becomes automated, enabling the user to make business decisions much faster.
Putting AI and ML to work is essential for two reasons. First, without these technologies, it is not otherwise humanly possible to analyze the data at the speed necessary to deliver business results. Second, as business gather more IoT data from more sources, they have a greater need to contextualize it.
For example, when data is gathered about a product being monitored in the field, AI- and ML-enabled applications can help contextualize it against data residing in other sources of information, such as an ERP system. By linking the data from the field-monitored product to other data—its part number, the date it was received, the lot number it came from, the suppliers who provided it or a sub-component of the part, the operator(s) who helped build the part, etc.—the data becomes more useful. Business professionals can pinpoint and solve problems more quickly and, in some cases, even begin to predict outcomes—which, for example, they can use to create a more robust field service offering. Overall, users will be able to identify and make improvements that they couldn’t even imagine when using manual data analysis.
Also significant to the IoT transition: the evolution of the IoT ecosystem. In previous years, most IoT providers took a go-it-alone approach or had a limited number of partners and technology providers. By definition, however, IoT means connectivity, which demands that applications be able to integrate with other technology providers through web services. At Hannover, these ecosystems will be readily apparent.
The number and type of applications that are available and will be exhibited at Hannover Messe are too numerous to detail in this blog post. Oracle, for example, will have 16 kiosks, each demonstrating how emerging technologies such as IoT can enable solutions that drive real business value. Applications are available to help companies build and leverage the digitally connected enterprise across a variety of areas, including the following and more:
- Innovation: Businesses can identify new products and services by integrating data about how customers are using products, and then delivering it to engineering, where it can be leveraged for improvements or new product development.
- Field service and supply chain demand: Service requirements and demand can be met before the customer knows a problem exists or replenishment is needed.
- Logistics: By monitoring a truck’s fuel consumption, speed, and routing to ensure on-time delivery, organizations can proactively identify potential problems or delays and take quick counter-measures. It’s also possible to monitor the consistency of temperature, humidity, etc., when needed, and the times/places where cargo doors have been opened to identify “leakage” and ensure that product quality and quantity meet specifications.
- Factory operations: By contextualizing data gathered from products in the field with data collected by the ERP system, companies can improve their ability to anticipate and quickly solve quality-control issues.
The bottom line is that 2019 is the tipping point—the year when IoT itself transforms from a technology-focused abstraction to business outcome-focused solutions. This transition will accelerate adoption of IoT by making it easier, less risky, and more cost-effective for companies of all sizes to deploy and leverage IoT for competitive advantage.