If you talk to people in IT they all know something about the Internet of Things – better known by its acronym IoT –but with varying degrees of understanding about what it can do. On the other hand, if you speak to business managers you often find they have clear business improvements and changes they want to make – but would not recognize IoT as being part of the solution they are looking for.
IoT has permeated all industries and has permanently blurred the lines between the enterprise and the consumer. Far from being a passing technology trend, IoT is very much here to stay and, in my view, IoT will be one of the most disruptive technologies in the coming years – but largely hidden away as part of a broader solution. I see IoT as being a core element of how organizations are able to see more about how their business runs, are able to act faster, be on the front foot in terms of being more predictive rather than reactive, can achieve greater operational efficiencies than from traditional IT solutions and – ultimately – deliver new value for customers through innovative new business models.
The Fujitsu IoT team has been involved in over 300 IoT projects to date, in addition to many more based on RFID (radio-frequency identification) and Machine to Machine (M2M) technologies that are the forerunners of IoT solutions. We’ve seen IoT deployments shift in nature from simply collecting data to help drive operational improvements, to using that data to deliver new insights, new ways of living and working and new business models, as Robin Lipscomb’s recent post describes.
So does IoT really matter to a Business Manager?
Yes – as a major source of efficiencies and innovation. IoT has surpassed the incubation phase and the ecosystem is maturing at a steady pace. Manufacturing companies are probably the most enthusiastic adopters, with over 50% of manufacturers in Europe already deploying some IoT solutions. Many are evolving from using SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) and RFID systems to establishing predictive maintenance capabilities as well as better managing work in progress, supply chain and logistics. For example, we are helping deploy an IoT project with aerospace, defense, commercial and medical manufacturer Baker Hill Industries. The business manufactures a complex array of products such as jet engines and rockets, and requires total visibility over the progress of all these components through the manufacturing plant. Thanks to Fujitsu’s GlobeRanger Manufacturing IoT solution, Baker Hill will be able to pinpoint the exact location of all components at all times, improving efficiencies from initial order through to shipping. It can also readily make this information available in real time to its customers.
The rise of smart cities and smart homes is another key trend that we have seen in recent times. Our work with A* Star in Singapore to help the country become the world’s first ‘Smart Nation’ clearly highlights how IoT is dramatically changing the way we function as a society: rationalizing time, energy use, healthcare provisions, space, travel, logistics and the overall efficiency for a more harmonious lifestyle. One project undertaken with A* Star and Singapore involves analyzing traffic to understand and improve its dynamics and flow. This analysis is connected to a new computing platform that combines research in sensing, data management and analytics, modeling and simulation, behavioral modeling and decision support. IoT makes it possible to connect all these points and monitor the traffic activity through mobile devices and even raise an alert in case of an emergency.
In the public sector, we have worked with the Richardson Police Department in Texas, USA to implement a system that tracks sensitive police equipment efficiently, transforming the way that inventory is managed. Using RFID tags, Fujitsu was able to help the department save 15 minutes per shift per officer – which equates to an extra police officer on every beat.
While working with many different enterprises, a question we are frequently asked is ‘How do I convince decision-makers that IoT is important to my business?’ The most crucial advice we can share is not to think about IoT implementations as being about the technology. Instead, focus on how you can make the business more successful and deliver sustainable business advantages. Do you want to create a more efficient organization, or would it be more valuable to gain new business insights that can drive new ways of working? Perhaps the opportunity lies in creating innovative business models or services? Only once you have identified the business goals should you look to the technology, the connected sensors and devices that will help you achieve them.
This strategic approach also makes for a compelling sell to business leaders. However, while you are focused on the business challenges in hand, the IT team should absolutely not be overlooked. IoT projects frequently involve many different departments and the key to success is close collaboration. All involved parties must be involved in the conversation as a lack of collaboration is most common reason for IoT implementations to fail.
Another important technology aspect that the IT team should consider from the outset is security. Any device connected to the internet is susceptible to hacking, and gaining access to a single connected device can cause the failure of an entire system. By identifying possible threats and creating models, businesses can map out potential weaknesses and develop measures to mitigate the risk.
The hyperconnected business
The Internet of Things is still perceived by some as a machine to machine solutions, while others are still trying to understand the point of the much trumpeted connected refrigerator. But the truth is, companies across all industries are deploying IoT, improving processes, and enhancing the customer experience. The secret to success, as demonstrated by our diverse customer deployments, is to have business objectives as the foundation of any IoT project. As long as business needs remain at the core of the plan, the only limit is imagination.
At Fujitsu our theme is: ‘Human Centric Innovation in Action – Driving Digital Transformation,’ so we work with all our customers at the intersection of business opportunity and technology. There are more examples of our IoT solutions from this year’s Mobile World Congress. But don’t just take our word for it – talk to us about your opportunities and we’ll work with you to harness the opportunities that the IoT presents.