The Internet of Things is a big opportunity for IT

The past decade, computing power has grown by factor three thousand. This has enabled new digitalization capabilities and we’re entering a new era: the internet of things. As a business, we have to understand customers have adopted new, digital habits and be more human or customer-centric. Digitalization makes us reinvent the value chain. The internet of things will allow us to bridge the physical and digital worlds.

Microsoft Cortana for instance checks traffic online and warns automatically if you need to leave earlier to be on time for your next appointment. Applications are exponentially driving the way we work, live and play. By gathering and analyzing data, we can predict the future.

Data intelligence start-ups

At our latest CIO café, Microsoft invited a couple of start-ups that are reinventing the way we use data. Ouat! Live Sciences equips devices with sensors and brings intelligence into industrial applications like SCADA. Call it industrial analytics. With Ouat’s platform, you can redesign your facility to make it more efficient.
Another start-up, LindaCare, collects health monitoring data and brings it together in an easy-to-use dashboard for medical teams. Finally, SynFac specializes in real-time analyses of data. It has for instance analyzed 4 million tweets during the EU president elections and was able to predict the results before they were public.

Value lies in data

“Connectivity is what makes the Internet of Things, but it is analytics that adds value to it”, says Microsoft’s IoT evangelist Michael Epprecht.

“The end-to-end integration will only get interesting if we do something with the data it produces. Machinery provided us with data before, we just didn’t do anything with it”, adds CGI’s John Hicklin.

That’s where it becomes interesting for us, IT guys. “In the past, we were only involved at the very last moment by Operations for digitalization or industrial automation. Now, we are driving it, providing real-time management and analytics. We are an asset!”, says a confident Michael Epprecht.

The business expects IT to connect devices

As IoT devices will talk to back-end systems, the Internet of Things is a challenge for CIOs. We will need to secure even more availability than before. Yet again, we must also see it as an opportunity: the business is expecting us to connect devices and create data that make sense to them.

“Cloud is making that evolution easier, but 80% of the work lies in data science. Connecting devices like elevators, buses or buildings and collecting data is the easiest part”, Epprecht says.

Why do we desperately need to invest in IoT? By analyzing data, you can optimize processes, reduce operational costs and simply run better. So, improving efficiency is a first ambition. Lido Stone decided to better monitor its machines allowing predictive maintenance. It now has less machines with unforeseen breakdowns and was able to increase productivity with 30%.

Market new services through IoT

A second reason to go for connectivity, data collection and analytics is innovation. Kwik Check petrol stations recognize customers via a new ordering and payment app and offer inside store products through targeted ads. The customers’ mobile purchase history is used to identify relevant digital discount offers, which are then sent to customers while they are still on-site. Kwik Check was thus able to increase in-store sales from formerly fuel-only customers.

ThyssenKrupp, that manages a global portfolio of 1.1 million elevators, wanted to upgrade its service and integrate predictability for maintenance optimization and better reliability for its elevators. In so doing, customers could foresee costs, schedule downtime and organize maintenance in a proactive way. In a test pilot, it connected 29 elevators to Microsoft Azure for IoT, a pre-built suite with integrated IoT applications for remote monitoring, asset management and predictive maintenance.

“The company now offers a service the competition doesn’t have. The two-way flow of data enables remote diagnosis and elevator commands. With up to 400 error codes possible on any given elevator, ThyssenKrupp is more efficient in the field, resulting in increased elevator uptime. The elevators can even teach technicians how to fix them”, says Hicklin.

Small enough to fail, big enough to scale

How should one transform its business? “Don’t make one thing smart, but manage new devices on your platform. Think about new services. Don’t remotely manage the building’s pump, manage the entire building: lights, doors, temperature, and so on. But. Beware as you can’t boil the ocean. Take a few steps and evolve with the business”, Epprecht concludes.

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