For several years now, IoT has dominated conversations and decisions about technology investments. But most conversations start and end with connections, failing to look beyond to the innovative and disruptive potential IoT brings to the table. From independent objects, processes and people operating in isolation, the real power of IoT lies in its ability to foster connectivity that drives collaboration and information sharing within a world powered by technology innovation and data-led intelligence.
But despite IoT’s rapid adoption and the opportunities it offers consumers and business users alike, IoT has not yet reached its full potential. There are lingering fears about security and data privacy, and IoT itself is rife with tactical planning that fails to realize a vision that moves organizations beyond the basics of device connectivity.
To achieve a bolder vision centered on an advanced form of IoT, CIOs have a powerful role to play working with their C-suite peers to transform their enterprise’s core DNA and, in the process, change their own roles from cost-savers to revenue-generators. But they need to embrace and deploy clear, strategic IoT programs that encompass intelligent systems acting autonomously while balancing the considerations that come with a connected future.
Harness the full potential of IoT
To start, CIOs must help educate the leadership team to view IoT as more than just sensors collecting real-time data. In fact, CIOs need to believe in and position IoT as strategic to the business so it can have transformative results. By harnessing the full power of IoT and devices acting with intelligence on their own to achieve more efficient operations, enterprises can deliver superior customer experiences, foster collaboration across their business ecosystems, fuel growth and innovation, and deliver on the promise of sustainability and positive environmental benefits.
These examples prove, when used to its fullest potential, that IoT can and will change the world. But with 14 billion things already connected to the Internet and another 11 billion expected by 2021, it is easy for enterprises to lose their way with IoT initiatives.
IoT, automation and AI
Augmenting IoT with automation and AI is where the real promise lies. This combination will take IoT –and the businesses that leverage it — into a new era of connected ecosystems yielding exponential value. In this context, CIOs and technology leaders with expertise in IT infrastructure, data networking, mobility and security are best equipped to lead the way. But CIOs can’t do this work alone. They need to partner closely with the business to navigate an increasingly complex landscape, with the first port of call being developing a multi-year, structured plan that offers a clear path to value.
From the perspective of IoT, this plan is about helping enterprises gain real-time insights on their products, processes, and people and augmenting the physical context with data-driven cognitive insights to power intelligent decision-making. With this approach, enterprises can build value chains where self-aware devices interact with each other. By combining contextual information with AI-led insights, devices will become increasingly intelligent to a level where decision-making can take place at the point where the information is gathered by the device. This enhanced digital intelligence will be a synthesis of human, artificial and cognitive intelligence. In this state, physical objects and processes will come to life as they pulse with data. When harnessed, it will create exponential value for the enterprise and its customers.
For example, consider the medical device industry. Although IoT has enabled connections across the ecosystem — from heart valves and patient monitors to care providers and pharmacies — the lack of integration among these parties often has resulted in poor patient experiences and sub-optimal health outcomes. However, by augmenting this care ecosystem in real time with human and cognitive expertise and pairing that with vast global research, new medications and drug discoveries, the healthcare industry can truly deliver better outcomes for patients and elevate the role of care providers.
As devices start communicating and collaborating, they will develop capabilities to act intelligently, moving the proverbial connected needle from self-aware to self-healing. For example, think of a smart factory. Increased connectivity and collaboration can help prevent collisions and reduce workplace accidents, improving worker safety.
In addition, this powerful combination can improve monitoring systems, processes for predictive maintenance and even enable enhanced sustainability initiatives. By setting a multi-year plan that drives toward acting intelligently, CIOs will unlock the latent, unexplored and limitless possibilities of IoT.
To maximize these benefits, CIOs and their technology teams need to evolve their thinking to encompass the following three principles:
Boundaryless. Embedding sensors in products can offer insights into product performance, but taking this to the next level requires breaking down enterprise silos to connect data from multiple organizational departments. CIOs should look beyond the boundaries of enterprise systems to include partner, supplier and customer data. Through these connections, enterprises can unleash new business models and revenue streams, harnessing multiple value chains and cross-industry ecosystems aligned with their own business purpose.
Pervasive. For future-ready ecosystems, decision making needs to be democratic. As systems evolve and become automatic, they must be backed by data-driven intelligence. From this perspective, owners of data will need to provide trust-based access across the ecosystem to overcome lingering privacy concerns, fueling new possibilities for growth and innovation.
Experience rich. Looking beyond using data to simply track and manage products, CIOs need to leverage product usage data to discover and respond to the evolving needs, preferences and possibilities of ecosystem stakeholders. There needs to be a seamless feedback loop for frictionless value creation, delivery and consumption to select the most efficient path to value.
Some enterprises, such as Damen Shipyards Group, encompass these elements to help drive their business purpose. For example, Damen Shipyards Group deployed a robust, integrated IoT platform that connected its vessels, collecting data from the thousands of sensors on board to improve safety, sustainability and efficiency.
It also connected the enterprise’s ecosystem players, such as employees, customers and suppliers, to use a single system to track vessels and manage their performance, as well as to keep suppliers informed about when a part or system was due for replacement. Suppliers could then ship the needed part ahead of a failure for quick service, which kept the vessels working and helped to regulate the ship’s carbon footprint. It also helped to deliver goods to their destinations faster.
With this information, enterprises can more effectively work with clients every step of the way — from vessel launch to decommissioning — and offer services such as predictive maintenance, remote support, fuel consumption savings and improved safety.
However, not all enterprises are this advanced with their IoT strategies. Bringing these strategies to life requires executive sponsorship at the highest level, collaboration both within and outside the organization, digital expertise and a daring vision for unlocking the exponential value of IoT.
By augmenting the physical with human, cognitive and digital intelligence, enterprises can maximize their IoT investments to create powerful ecosystems and build new business models, delivering positive outcomes for their customers, employees, partners and even the ecosystems in which they operate.
CIOs shouldn’t be afraid to be bold and to expect more from IoT. The possibilities for transformation with IoT are truly limitless for enterprises today. The key to success is a strategic plan for bringing life to things.
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