By now, we are aware that most businesses are in the middle of a “data reawakening.” Every asset, product, system and person now generates data, either through sensors, smartphones or computers. But sadly, enterprises seem overwhelmed by these enormous streams of data cargo, rather than meaningfully utilizing its potential to develop serious value of it. In the last few years, the bar of integrated and intelligent services has exponentially raised and these interactions represent a global reality — IT/OT convergence.
Why do the two domains need to work together?
Over the last few years, information technology and operations technology (IT/OT) have been viewed as two entirely separate entities. Traditionally, these two domains did not overlap; they had different goals, had different objectives — IT ran business applications while OT centered around manufacturing, assets, operations and building efficiency (you find the likes of SCADA, BMS, PLC, etc.). Yet data from these technologies remained confined within multiple proprietary systems and organizational silos, making it less accessible and non-interoperable by stakeholders, compelling IT and OT to independently fluctuate business performance based on non-linear, deferred problem data.
The gap is pretty obvious. Technologies need to combine and converge to not only solve interoperability issues, but also to simplify the means of acquiring, processing and analyzing data so that reactions can be concluded across the last mile, in real time. This translates the concept of IoT that fundamentally focuses to close the IT/OT divide and facilitate blending of data both horizontally (between things like machines, assets and equipment) and vertically (across corporate IT systems and business applications).
IoT will be deep-rooted in IT systems to automate operations
There are two angles to this, though. On one side, we have businesses looking for solutions to centrally automate and increase operational efficiency across the physical world. They want to utilize machine data to understand performance trends of energy, assets and products, be it at a fanned-out infrastructure or a factory floor (read: connected buildings). On the other side, we have product companies innovating on R&D that is based on IoT-driven consumer insights. They want to deliver better customer service, forecast sales and maintenance and be in control of product health through its lifetime (read: connected products).
Clearly, IoT enables various business drivers to realize the benefits of IT/OT convergence, making information accessible across teams and organizations involved, more easily and timely — eventually, unifying an environment of diverse equipment and interfacing protocols.
Organizations have new expectations: “Orchestration of things”
For example, an air-conditioning unit in your building begins to underperform. Your IoT solution analyzes its performance trend through a specific duration and recognizes a leak in the gas pipe that’s causing the unit to work below capacity. It automatically raises a ticket to your operation team’s helpdesk and you remotely prioritize and route your maintenance staff to attend to this issue. Simultaneously, the IoT solution alerts your A/C supplier of the irregularity, either through its CRM/ERP or by email, enabling the business to keep track of product performance over time and schedule replacements if required. You see how data consolidation takes place — by building a unified, common ground (of sensors, gateways and platform-enabled software), you begin to converge and derive profitable value from both these worlds, enabling data to interact and interoperate across legacy and newer systems — ergo, creating an orchestration and integration of “things.”
What will the collaboration look like?
By way of working IoT as small yet specialized cloud applications (that run on a reliable, multitenant platform architecture), businesses soon start to realize a true plug-and-play IoT environment across verticals. Let’s take the case of connected buildings: your head of operations begins her day by logging onto a central, connected-projects console. It delineates all essential operations in a single unified view that helps her observe the overall performance of your geographically distributed infrastructure. This includes the generic health of environments managed, health of assets in each environment, total number of underperforming assets, root cause of inconsistencies, consequent under-optimized operations, cost equated to downtime, the teams working on it and much more.
More flexibility in managing operations: Ease of IT in OT
You begin to empower your teams to manage energy or water consumption just as straightforwardly as managing your internet bandwidth — on the go, on demand and in real time. You start to transform into a unified infrastructure, rethinking traditional business models to create new connected services. You begin to effectively improve day-to-day business processes and, sooner or later, start doing IoT.
The way businesses are being managed is changing for good, and so are the underlying technologies that interact with machines and people alike. The IT/OT convergence will continue to help provide organizations the right information they need, anywhere, any time — and by that greatly simplifying the lives of millions of working people, more intelligently.
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