IoT: From the Lens of the Enterprise

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As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to gain strength and becomes a reality everywhere, we are beginning to see a shift in the landscape that may seem subtle today, but will be the most important shift that shapes the direction of IoT for years to come.

We have seen three types of vendors to have emerged since the first days of the IoT. First, the early phases of IoT were marked by vendors who were either making for the first time or completely redesigning existing products to be IoT-enabled to gain a competitive advantage over those slower to realize the IoT’s vast potential. This allowed vendors to improve their customer service, increase the reliability of their products, or even because they wanted the ability to predict when there would be issues within their operations and address them (by employing predictive maintenance to prevent unexpected equipment failures), or even change their business model, before those issues would become a problem.

The second type of vendors are the ones who are more recent to the ranks of delivering IoT-enabled products, but they are doing so to avoid being marginalized in a market where there is an increasing number of consumers and other buyers who now expect their products to have functionality with IoT technology. In some instances, these vendors often find themselves playing catch up to the early adopters, and therefore they are spending precious resources trying to deploy quick-to-market products instead of taking the time needed to eliminate any flaws or bugs in their offerings before launch. In other instances, they may have evolved slower seeking to leap-frog current offerings. But in either case, these vendors are doing so because there is no viable alternative.

The third type of vendors are the ones who are taking a more active stake in the IoT, thereby setting themselves truly apart from the mainstream. These vendors view the IoT from the lens of the enterprise where the data captured from their IoT-enabled products are assumed to be used by the enterprise directly, and not just by the vendors. Moreover, the expectation is that the enterprise will selectively cleanse, enrich, and propagate this information to entities within the enterprise (e.g., regional offices, corporate offices, etc.), as well as to selected appropriate third parties, like supply chain partners or regulatory bodies, on an as needed basis.

But none of this precludes the vendor from still receiving the same information, and providing the same enhanced value to their customers. However, this view assumes the vendor is leveraging the IoT data alongside, and not at the expense of, the enterprise.

Now that the IoT has graduated from its infancy stages, CIOs and operational executives across many organizations are beginning to understand that virtually all the assets they are putting into (or retrofitting into) their organization are IoT-enabled. As such, they are also beginning to realize that the data controlled by the vendors, especially when that data is held in a silo with limitations on what data can be accessed and how it can be used, is a big limitation – and if you are the one driving the IoT enablement for your organization, this is a huge issue. You want access and control of all that data, because there is a high value in understanding the IoT data from “device one” in the context of “device two” and “three,” and for that matter, in the context of “systems two,” “three,” and more.

When you have 30 different IoT-enabled systems and thousands of units deployed, losing control of that data means losing the leverage and insight you could otherwise gain from that data. Moreover, you begin to recognize that if you can ingest and process all that data, you can enrich it with operational data from the enterprise systems (e.g., ERP or Point-of-Sale), and increasingly from external data ranging from demographics data to city-supplied IoT data.

With this you can increase the granularity of the signature you are getting for your BI tools driving operational monitoring. You can also enhance your ability to determine cause and effect via investigative analytics over that data; reduce your ability to do predictive analytics driven by that data; and limit your ability to create truly adaptive systems based on machine learning using that data.

A dynamic relationship has thus emerged between vendors and CIOs, or other executive end users, who are establishing their business models and livelihoods based on the IoT data vendors can collect and store. The business argument that we are now hearing is that the vendor should get the data, but should also “be willing to send it to the end user.” However, this mindset only complicates and undermines the right architecture.

To avoid any miscommunication or discrepancies, vendors should be willing to provide whatever data the end user wants, but do it based on governance controls once the data is captured into a “First Receiver” layer. The First Receiver component in the architecture then lets you provision the data to the vendors, your corporate offices, your supply chain partners, and anyone else (FDA, OSHA, etc.) that needs certain pieces of information.

The key is ingesting the data from the IoT subsystems, and leveraging the data from those systems so the right data gets to the right constituent in the right way at the right time. From the lens of the enterprise, there is no other option that makes sense. The market is beginning to understand this, and market forces will drive this delivery architecture.

Vendors who see and appreciate this shift will make strides to accommodate it, and in doing so, create their own competitive advantage as their products will be much more attractive to the enterprises buying them.

Contributed by: Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright. Under Don’s leadership, Infobright has grown significantly, with a strong presence in embedded solutions, focused in the networking and telecommunications industry. Don has more than 30 years of software industry experience, with demonstrated success building software companies with extensive sales, marketing, and international experience. Don joined Infobright in May 2010 after serving as CEO of Aleri, the complex event processing company, which was acquired by Sybase in February 2010. Don currently also serves on the Executive Board of the Illinois Technology Association, is co-chairman of the ITA Internet of Things Council, and is on the Board of the Juvenile Protective Association. Don has a Bachelor of Industrial and Systems Engineering degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology.


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