The allure of the “Internet of Things” (IoT) to today’s business leaders is compelling. Having the information to run an organization more efficiently with the realtime data that the IoT provides can result in lower operating expenses, increased profitability, and higher levels of quality. OEMs that adapt the IoT in their product strategies can offer better functionality for their end users while also building an ability to acquire deep knowledge about how their products are used in the marketplace. So it’s no wonder that companies are rushing forward to find help in implementing their IoT initiatives.
However, the help these organizations employ to achieve their IoT goals often is long on promise and short on delivery. Many companies claim to be experts on the IoT, but they frequently only provide portions of the overall solution path. For example, sensor manufacturers may have the hardware element necessary to acquire important data, but frequently do not have the ability to move this data to the cloud and make it useful. Similarly, cloud providers are happy to provide interfaces for devices, but often do not provide end-to-end support for the variety of sensors, gateways, and other hardware devices sending that data. Wireless carriers are good at moving data around, but they often do not have relationships with the hardware manufacturers producing the data or the cloud providers hosting the data. And mobile app developers can create applications to allow data to be displayed and/or manipulated, but frequently have no idea how the data is acquired and what to do if the flow of data stops.
Most of the time, the customer is led to believe that they are getting a complete solution with a single vendor, only to find out that their vendor only supplies a piece of the IoT puzzle, with the other pieces being left open for definition and implementation. The result is a confusing journey with other vendor’s products and services, trying to create a complete, end-to-end solution, often resulting in a partially working system and frequently ending in the failure of the project.
Clearly, the customer needs a complete, holistic solution. And here is how it should be done:
- Step 1 : Define the business problem / opportunity
Implementing an IoT solution should be no different than any other new business initiative. First start with a definition of the problem to be solved or the opportunity that can be created by using the IoT. Then determine the costs, risks, ROI, and other factors that should guide the project. Technology should not be the focus of this study — the organization should see a clear benefit at a business level at this stage.
- Step 2: Define the total IoT solution that solves the problem / creates opportunity
Next, a discussion should take place between the organization and an IoT firm that has a proven track record in providing end-to-end IoT solutions. This firm should strive to understand the business need and then help create a solution that will meet the project requirements. When considering the technology required for the project, the firm should have complete and proven solutions for:
- Data acquisition — sensors, monitors, gateways, wireless communication
- Device control — configuration and real-time control of remote devices
- The Cloud — data protocols, storage, customer Internet portals, data analytics
- Mobile apps — data display, device setup/configuration, alerts/alarms
- Step 3: Implement the solution and provide on-going support
Lastly, the IoT firm employed should provide an easy to understand proposal for implementation of the entire IoT solution being considered. The proposal should cover “build” versus “buy” of the various hardware devices, services, and software needed for the system solution. It should also include not only the initial installation and operation of the system, but also a plan for on-going support for maintenance and scalability as the organization grows.
By considering the IoT project as an entity and not as a piece of hardware or software that is sold by a particular vendor, a customer can dramatically increase the likelihood that their IoT project will not only be able to succeed in the project’s stated goals, but that it will be done without the confusion and uncertainty that occurs with many current IoT projects that are trapped in the Fragmented Internet of Things.