I first started working in the IoT industry several years ago. I started in marketing at 2lemetry (recently acquired by Amazon) and it took me a few months to figure out what exactly we did. One of my co-workers and our senior product engineer, after giving me a few high-level tutorials on 2lemetry’s technology, said, “Don’t worry, it’s taken me five years to figure it out.”
That may sound a little absurd, but given the language that many use in business technology, it’s no wonder that people get lost in a world of big words and vagueries. “Streamline your solution,” “improve your processes,” “infrastructure”, “middleware”, “scale”, “protocol agnostic.” These are just a few terms, that if you’re new to the scene, will get you scratching your head a little bit.
That tendency makes business people (i.e. non-developers) feel lost and alone on the journey of IoT implementation. In this post, I’d like to do away with the smoke and mirrors and big phrases to help you understand what you’ll need to make legitimate tech improvements in your company. (If you’re still asking “what is IoT?” then check out this article first.)
There are 7 things to do as you look at IoT solutions.
1. Is IoT right for me? We’re an IoT consulting company, so you’d probably expect that we think IoT is “right for every company”. Not exactly.
Although you might be surprised at how often it can make sense, it’s important to do a cost/benefit analysis to see how much you can profit by implementing an IoT solution. Take a local coffee shop as an example. Many might think that a high-tech solution wouldn’t make sense for a local business, like a coffee shop, but think: Sensors in seats to know how long patrons sit, and where. A sensor that detects foot traffic to know how many people walked in the door, which can then cross-reference a database of transactions to know how many people come in without buying anything. Coffee machines and coffee roasting equipment could be connected and remotely controlled. And so on.
Would connecting a coffee shop make sense? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, it’s important to do some homework on your business to see how much an IoT solution can help.
2. Set a Roadmap: My wife and I are getting ready to buy a house. We’re excited about all the ways this new house is going to improve our lives. But we are dreading the moving process. We need to pack up, do some painting, patch nail holes, fix-up the new kitchen, and clean up our old place. It’s a daunting task, but it’s a must.
Setting up an IoT solution is the same way. It requires a lot of work up-front, with all the rewards waiting on the other side. This requires staging a roadmap. What’s the first step? The second? What exactly are you trying to accomplish? What data insights would be most beneficial? Are you wanting analytics data or M2M technology (machine-to-machine, where one device can talk to another, initiating actions and automation)? Once you’ve answered these questions, and many more, you’ll need to start plotting your course to get there.
3. Pick the Right Technology: This is one of the more complicated tasks that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Whether you’re adding sensors to existing assets and equipment, or making a product with embedded technology for you customers, you need to be very smart in how you choose your smart technology. Does your IoT project require cellular, WiFi, bluetooth, or one of the dozens of other options? Will your sensors be battery operated? What platform will you choose to traffic, store, and communicate all your data?
There are many more questions, but I can’t emphasize the importance of this step enough. Just imagine that you’re an oil and gas company that spends a major amount of money to install underground sensors, only to find out within a few years that all the batteries in all your sensors have gone dead. That will be a very expensive problem to fix.
4. Enterprise System Integration: Many companies already use systems like Salesforce and ServiceMax. But do you have the ability to integrate into their CRM platform or other databases? Making it all work – getting meaningful data from sensors into Salesforce or ServiceMax – is important to keep companies running smoothly.
5. Mobile App Development: Some solutions require mobile apps, either for public or private use. You’ll want experienced developers who understand IoT data streams to build your app appropriately and securely.
6. Building Other Visualizations: The days of staring at data charts, numbers, columns and rows are coming to a close. In addition to mobile apps, clear and attractive visualizations are par for the course these days. Do you have the right tools to see and understand your data?
7. Analyze Impact: IoT produces a lot of data and it’s necessary to have the right software, analyst expertise, and databases that can process your data. Data is vitally important to prove/disprove hypotheses, display improvements, or uncover holes in the general business process. IoT can help improve companies in big ways, but gaps in data processing will hinder that progress.
When people ask me, “what does ThingLogix do?”, I usually direct them to this article because we specialize in getting companies up and running with new IoT solutions – essentially, we provide answers for the items listed above.
IoT can be a large-scale project up front, but you will benefit in the long run. That’s why we’re here. ThingLogix specializes in helping companies chart their solution and make it happen. It’s an important move for your company, so you want the right people helping you ask the right questions and giving you the best options.
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