It is easy to think of the IoT purely in terms of technology. Whether you are introducing an IoT ecosystem to your own organisation or looking to develop a new IoT product or service, the chances are you will start off by thinking about hardware and software, internet connectivity and analytics platforms.
This isn’t the wrong approach, but it is important to realise that the IoT is not purely a technological phenomenon. Rather, it is a human-led and an information-led phenomenon. The IoT engenders new interactions between people and technology, and the capture and analysis of new data with the help of technology.
Start thinking in these terms, and it becomes apparent that the IoT is much bigger than it first appears. It is, in fact, a key part of broader digital transformation, enabling manual processes to be replaced with digital ones, and enabling operational decisions that are informed with digitally-captured and analysed data.
Getting started with the IoT, then, means getting started with a broader digital transformation process.
How to achieve this?
Every IoT deployment is different, depending on the scale and scope of your operations and the sector you are part of. However, a top-level strategy should always think about three things: data, decisions, and development.
• Think in terms of data. What information do you want to capture, and what can you get away with ignoring? Sure, data storage is cheap and easy, so there’s an argument for collecting as much as you can, and simply storying that which you don’t need immediately. However, data in storage is vulnerable to cyberattack and ultimately does increase the management burden within your organisation, so it is always sensible to take a considered approach from the start. What previously untapped information do you want to capture, and how?
• Think in terms of decisions. Which operations do you want to gain more insight into? Which processes do you want to optimise? Where can you introduce automated decision-making, rather than requiring a human intervention?
• Think in terms of development. Which products or services within your organisation do you want to evolve? Where do you want to cross-sell, or up-sell? Which products or services do you want to understand better in terms of how they are deployed and how they perform – so that you can improve them with genuine knowledge? This area is particularly important for manufacturing businesses, which can use the IoT to gain a better understanding of how their products are used in the field, and therefore how they might best be adapted in the future.
To move away from a restrictive view of the IoT which thinks purely in terms of technology, and a broader one which thinks in terms of business transformation, you need to consider what, and how, you want your organisation to transform. This is how OEM manufacturer Howden approaches IoT – less of a project and more as an integral part of overall digital and business transformation.
Much of the potential of the IoT lies in its enormous flexibility, the way it can be harnessed in multiple different ways depending on the sector and use case in question. Start from the bigger picture and work your way into those use cases, and you will end up with an approach to the IoT which can genuinely transform your operations.