The Bottom Line for Enterprise IoT – Business Value from Ubiquitous Data

Analysts and forecasters are predicting extremely high market growth rates for the IoT and often they are referencing enterprise/industrial applications rather than consumer products. But how can these predicted growth levels be justified when for many years islands-of-automation and domain-specific integrated systems have already provided valuable tactical OT and IT solutions for enterprises? Whether SCADA, corporate IT applications or tactical M2M systems, these solutions have delivered a self-contained return-on-investment (RoI) from their operational benefits. So one may be tempted to ask, “How is enterprise IoT different and where is its RoI to justify these impressive growth forecasts?”

The business value of enterprise IoT is based on a premise that there is a huge amount of potential value in the data generated by existing systems (legacy sub-systems in IoT terms) and newly connected Things (sensor networks, brilliant machines, mobiles, gateways, etc.)… if only it can be unlocked through ubiquitous data availability for apps and analytics to extract new and actionable insights. Let’s look at some specific examples where new data accessibility can produce new value and good RoI:

For OEMs and system vendors the focus of the IoT will often be on enabling new products, new services, and an enhanced customer experience. The ability to generate in-operation data from products, access and analyze them remotely (by other devices, a Smartphone app, by a cloud service, etc.), and generate new insights into product performance, integrity, energy consumption, utilization, etc. gives vendors the ability to more closely align their offerings with their customers’ business needs and add new services (and thus new revenues) to their portfolio. The IoT can thus revolutionize the way a required business solution is delivered and dramatically increase user-friendliness, interoperability and the efficiency of post-sales customer service. At PrismTech we see many OEMs moving quickly from offering stand-alone products to selling connected systems and the valuable data they generate and services they enable. The quest for sustainable competitive advantage (and fear of falling behind) will fund OEM investment in the IoT and provide the RoI projections that executives require to fund new product and system development.

One such example is in power generation and distribution. In 2013 US utility giant Duke Energy formed the “Coalition of the Willing” (COW), a consortium of grid technology vendors focused on the promotion and adoption of an Open Architecture approach to standardizing the way grid-edge technologies are integrating together.

After successfully demonstrating in real-time how different grid devices could talk to each other and reducing the feedback control process from minutes to less than 10 seconds, the energy industry has really started to take notice. This work is also helping address the key issue of intermittent availability of supply when deploying renewables as part of an integrated generation system. Thus users and device OEMs are collaborating and using the IIoT to unlock new value from device data generation, connectivity and interoperability. From products to systems.

For End Users the focus will often be on operational efficiency and the potential for significant productivity gains and cost reduction. With operational assets (devices, machines, people, buildings, street furniture, etc.) producing more real-time data… and new apps, analytics and interoperability providing the ability to convert them into actionable insights and superior coordination, the scope for operational gains of many percentage points has been identified in industries as diverse as manufacturing, energy, transportation, healthcare, cities and critical infrastructure. Projected savings driven by superior energy efficiency, resource utilization, staff deployment, capital asset longevity and reduced cycle times will fund End User investment in the IoT and provide the RoI projections that executives require. Already the City of Nice and its residents are seeing real benefits from improved city mobility. By having real-time access to car park space availability data via mobile devices, drivers are taking much less time to park and parking income from reduced fraud is up by 35%. This in turn is helping improve traffic flow and has reduced congestion by 30%. Air pollution and noise levels have been reduced by 25%. In the future, better city management will see savings of between 20-80% in areas such as street lighting and waste management while improving overall environmental quality.

To read the full article, visit www.iiconsortium.org

Beyond M2M to Enterprise IoT

Figure 1. A Layered Enterprise IoT System Architecture
Figure 1. A Layered Enterprise IoT System Architecture

Applications running on edge-devices, gateways, enterprise servers, cloud services and mobiles are all valuable data sources and sinks in an IoT world.  But new software platforms are needed to connect and leverage all these sub-systems to maximize the business value-add of Enterprise IoT.

For several years, M2M platforms have provided reasonable solutions for connecting machines to cloud services (actually it should be M2C, as M2M platforms generally do not support peer-to-peer device communications).  But these platforms have struggled to create large markets or provide strategic enterprise-wide solutions.  They have mostly been restricted to providing vertical/tactical applications — in effect self-contained ‘stovepipe’ systems.

But to fully exploit the potential of the IoT, data must be free to flow to wherever in the system it can add value, e.g. between ‘edge’ devices for control purposes, to gateways for data aggregation/ingestion and local analytics, to cloud-based applications for Big Data analytics, to enterprise systems for OT/IT alignment and supply-chain integration, to mobiles for on-demand data delivery to employees (see Figures 1 and 2).  The promise of Enterprise IoT is the new value created through ubiquitous data availability (and its processing by applications into actionable insights), but this means a new generation of platforms is required to provide the data-connectivity to support a new generation of distributed IoT applications.

One of the biggest differences between traditional M2M and Enterprise IoT systems is that ‘horizontal’ as well as ‘vertical’ data-flow must be supported.  Vertical silos of data do not provide the potential to add value beyond a specific sub-system, so a fundamental feature of next-generation IoT platforms will be a data-connectivity layer that supports system-wide data-delivery as required: the right data, in the right place, at the right time, system-wide.

There are many potential ways (control, analytics, dashboards, event processing, mobile apps, etc.) to exploit all this newly accessible IoT data, but it needs to be delivered to the appropriate application in a timely manner wherever in the system that application may reside (on an edge device, gateway, enterprise server, tablet, or in the cloud).  Only then can the data be converted into new ‘actionable insights’ and thus new business value.

Figure 2. End-to-end IoT System Functionality: Providing intelligent data-connectivity for end-to-end systems embracing Things, gateways, enterprise servers, cloud services, mobiles, etc. to support Enterprise IoT solutions.
Figure 2. End-to-end IoT System Functionality: Providing intelligent data-connectivity for end-to-end systems embracing Things, gateways, enterprise servers, cloud services, mobiles, etc. to support Enterprise IoT solutions.

To provide this underlying capability, a data-connectivity layer needs to be deployed across all nodes the in the system — at least all the nodes that are required to share data (publish and/or subscribe).  An enterprise version of Twitter for Things, in effect.

In simple terms, the diagrams in Figures 3 and 4 show, respectively, how this layer can be deployed both in the cloud (to support cloud services) and on devices (Things, servers, PCs, mobiles, etc.).  They also show potential sources of the applications the platform connects (end-user developers, ISVs, SIs, OEMs).

Figure 3. IoT Cloud Services Environment: PrismTech's Vortex provides the intelligent data-connectivity between the functional components within a cloud PaaS offering for Enterprise IoT solutions.
Figure 3. IoT Cloud Services Environment: PrismTech’s Vortex provides the intelligent data-connectivity between the functional components within a cloud PaaS offering for Enterprise IoT solutions.
Figure 4. IoT Edge-Device Environment: Similar to the PaaS offering, PrismTech's Vortex provides the intelligent data-connectivity between functional components in an IoT device and other devices, sub systems and cloud services for Enterprise IoT solutions.
Figure 4. IoT Edge-Device Environment: Similar to the PaaS offering, PrismTech’s Vortex provides the intelligent data-connectivity between functional components in an IoT device and other devices, sub systems and cloud services for Enterprise IoT solutions.

[Note that the data-connectivity layer supports not only inter-node data-sharing, but also data-sharing between the application components of the IoT platform itself, i.e. inter-operability between platform services (such as IDEs, edge-device management, API management, analytics engines, etc.) as well as between Things].

To read the full article, visit www.smartindustry.com

Data Connectivity with IoT drives new value for business

You may have heard the question, “Is data the new oil?” It even made its way into Forbes nearly two years ago. Well, is it? In the context of creating new business value from the Internet of Things (IoT), the answer today is both yes and no.

Yes, data contains huge potential value and, of course, it is much more plentiful and accessible than oil (and about to become much, much more plentiful). However, it is simply raw material that needs to be delivered to the right place at the right time and “refined” there (by applications) to create new business value, e.g., additional revenue streams (services as well as products), resource optimization (for both capital and human assets) and environmental benefits (waste reduction, energy efficiency, etc.).

There is little new about “islands of automation.” Data has been “refined” for decades to produce operational (OT) and corporate (IT) value at the tactical level. However, the IoT offers the potential for completely new levels of business value by providing a corporate data-connectivity backbone to deliver the right data to the right place at the right time, enterprise-wide and inter-enterprise.

The IoT can thus be applied to:

  • Liberate valuable data from legacy and new sub-systems (via gateways)
  • Directly or indirectly add new connected edge devices and machines (new Things as data sources)
  • Provide global-scale connectivity at reasonable cost (via the Internet)
  • Support new application deployment and analytics anywhere in the system (e.g., on devices, gateways, enterprise systems, cloud services, mobile)
  • Generate new insights and business and societal value from these distributed and instantly accessible applications and analyses

Data connectivity for under-explored valuable data

Tactical OT and IT systems obviously add value to enterprises and have provided good solutions in areas from process control to SCADA to ERP to corporate payroll since at least the 1970s. These self-contained applications provide a good ROI and solve real operational problems, but they also tend to be domain specific, often utilize proprietary technologies and lock their data into “vertical stovepipes.”

As such, they do a good job but in a limited way. They do not fully exploit the potential of the data they generate since they do not liberate that data for sharing and analysis wherever in the enterprise new insights and value can be generated. For example, they do not support distributed analytics, cross-domain integration or global-scale data access.

And as enterprises deploy literally billions of new connected Things during the next few years, this problem (of underexploited valuable data) will become dramatically worse unless a new data-connectivity approach is taken.

Read the full article at www.sandhill.com

Why are System Integrators So Hyped About the IoT?

Enterprise/Industrial IoT (IIoT) systems with global scale, legacy sub-systems, cloud services, connected edge-devices, Fog Computing concepts, and OT/IT alignment present a new challenge in terms of interoperability, end-to-end performance and security.  So who will deliver them?

Of course if everything were plug-and-play (PnP) out-of-the-box, we wouldn’t have a problem.  But anyone who remembers connecting a printer to a PC back in the 1980s knows that PnP takes time to arrive.  So for the foreseeable future, how will IIoT systems be implemented, deployed and maintained?  Step forward the systems integrator.  One aspect of the IIoT that hasn’t been well publicized is the huge opportunity it represents for systems integrators.  But it’s no coincidence that Accenture, PwC and many other IT and OT services companies are producing optimistic reports about the impact of the IIoT.  IIoT-related consulting services are a huge opportunity for them now, and over the next decade the market for IIoT systems development, deployment and evolution will be huge.

The vast majority of IIoT systems will include data sources and sinks (sensor networks, edge devices, brilliant machines, proprietary sub-systems, etc.) from both legacy (brown field) and new sub-systems.  In effect, IIoT systems can be regarded as an overlay on existing OT and IT systems that complements them and adds new business value through: incorporating new connected devices, supporting distributed analytics, leveraging the Internet and cloud services for global scale and mobility, facilitating enterprise OT/IT alignment, enabling supply-chain optimization and more. Read the full article at www.smartindustry.com