By now, we are aware that most businesses are in the middle of a ‘data reawakening’. Every asset, product, system, person now generates data, either through sensors, smartphones or computers. But sadly, businesses seem overwhelmed by these enormous streams of data cargo, rather meaningfully utilizing its potential and developing serious value out of it.
Why the two domains will need to work together?
Over the last few years, information and operations technology (IT and OT) have been viewed as entirely two separate entities. Traditionally, these two domains did not overlap – had different goals, had different objectives – IT ran business applications while OT centered around manufacturing, assets, operations, building efficiency (you find the likes of SCADA, BMS, PLC etc). Yet, data from these technologies remain 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 (a) not only solve interoperability issues but to (b) simplify the means of acquiring, processing and analysing 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 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 your 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 equipments and interfacing protocols.
Organizations have new expectations. Orchestration of Things.
For example, an air-conditioning unit in your building begins to under-perform. Your IOT solution analyses 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 their 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 inter-operate across legacy and newer systems – ergo, creating an orchestration and integration of ‘things’.
How the collaboration will look like?
By way of working IOT as small yet specialized cloud applications (that run on a reliable, multi-tenant 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 on to 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 under-performing 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 straightforward 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 process 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. IT and OT systems will continue to merge together, to help provide organizations the right information they need, anywhere, anytime and by that, greatly simplifying the lives of millions of working people, more intelligently.
This blog was orginally published at IoT Agenda by Tech Target. It talks of Internet of Things, but with an enterprise angle. Take that to mean industry vertical applications, development ecosystems, product design, hardware, deployment and more.