Why the Internet of Things is the true foundation for a digital future

It’s an exciting time to be in business. Groundbreaking new technologies are blurring the line between the physical and the digital world. From advanced analytics to artificial intelligence, the capabilities now available to Canadian companies are unprecedented; but they can also be rather overwhelming.

So let’s break it down and start with the foundation for future technology: the Internet of Things, or IoT.

Make IoT your next big thing

While you’ve probably heard of the Internet of Things, you may not appreciate the incredible potential that IoT represents.

Where the Internet of the 1990s connected people to each other through their computers and mobile devices, IoT goes further, using Internet-enabled smart sensors to connect virtually any one thing to any other thing: whether it’s a machine, shipping container, industrial asset, or even a complete manufacturing plant or network of facilities. This interconnectedness allows organizations to tap into a level of data, and oversight, they’ve never had access to before.

People often point to smart appliances as an example of how IoT will change our lives such as a refrigerator that detects food quantities and automatically orders refills, which are then delivered—all without any involvement from you. But the impact on businesses will be far more dramatic. For example, Harley Davidson reduced its build-to-order cycle by a factor of 36 and grew overall profitability by 3% to 4% by shifting production to a fully IoT-enabled plant1 and Royal Dutch Shell realized a $1M return on an $87K investment in a remote IoT-based asset monitoring and maintenance solution that tracks activity across 80 oil fields in West Africa, with a combined daily oil production across the oil fields is nearly 600,000 barrels a day2.

The big picture gets bigger

IOT can give organizations the ability to continually monitor all the assets at a mining facility in real time. If the grinders and crushers are spinning faster than normal or are vibrating more than usual, a machine-generated alert will indicate to the operator to scale or adjust back to baseline parameters to prevent an unplanned maintenance incident. Similarly, a business can use sensors to track every component in a supply chain, from raw materials to finished product, to build a clearer picture of where delays, bottlenecks, or shrinkage might occur.

Devices that monitor and report on traffic patterns can help retailers create a more efficient shopping experience. In health care, “smart” pill bottles can automatically track how often a patient is taking medicine, which frees hospital staff to focus on other critical tasks.

IoT is even transforming the world of sports, with sensors that can monitor an athlete’s performance, indicate whether a point was scored or not, and assess whether a hit was severe enough to cause a concussion.

The benefits are clear. But with so many new technologies becoming available, what makes IoT so foundational for other technology?

It all comes down to data

Every new technology today is built around, and/or relies on, data. IoT is what generates that data. Without a network of sensors gathering and sharing information, no other digital technology would be able to reach its potential. In fact, as more and more devices and facilities start sharing information with each other, the more robust IoT becomes, and the more automated a business can be. This is what makes IoT a foundational technology. The data collected by IoT feeds the ability of AI to recognize patterns and use that intelligence to produce smarter processes.

Organizations that don’t act to implement IoT will miss out on insights that could make their operations more cost-efficient, improve their processes, and help them achieve their business objectives. These are crucial considerations. And bear in mind that, because IoT is a mature technology that can be implemented today, if you’re not preparing your IoT strategy, you can bet that your competitors are.

How to leverage IoT

The good news is that your business can start to benefit from IoT quickly, without a significant upfront investment. Just as you would with any transformational initiative, start by assessing your needs. Envision how IoT can generate valuable new data and boost your organization’s bottom line. Then establish a strategy, develop your use cases, and when you’re happy, scale.

Start small instead of trying to do everything at once. For example, apply IoT technology to one asset in a plant or one point in your supply chain. Then, over several weeks, assess how this benefits your business before you start scaling up.

Throughout the process, it’s critical to keep data security top of mind. After all, IoT consists of multiple devices communicating with each other wirelessly. This is a tempting target for cyber criminals. A well-thought out and executed data protection strategy can go a long way toward ensuring the integrity of your information.

Finally, engage with an experienced partner to help you make the most of IoT’s potential. Look for someone who brings real-world, value based experiences and can assist you in developing a roadmap, and integrating all the moving parts. Look for help with implementation and cybersecurity planning; and, you’ll need someone to show you how to apply analytics to pull insights out of all the data your IoT components generate.

Your first steps on the journey to a fully intelligent enterprise can begin right away. Organizations need to act by strategically hypothesizing where to apply IoT to capture value through small, rapid, iterations to realize rapid results and value. The key to maintaining control of this transformational technology is to slowly adapt your process—don’t try to jump right into the deep end. No matter where you start your future tech journey, one thing is certain: the time to start is now, and the place to start is with the Internet of Things.


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