Nowadays, it seems almost anything can be connected to the Internet. The Internet of Things (IoT) is affecting every technology industry around the world with its enormous impact on enterprises, consumers, devices and machines. The IoT market is still in its early stages, but we have entered an Era of IoT and Smart Apps.
Over the past decade, business applications have rapidly changed — from web to mobile to multi-channel apps. By 2020, the world’s data will double every two months. The rapid rise of IoT, big data and machine learning are radically redefining apps as we know them. IoT is one of the most important ‘phenomenon’ that is continuously developing and growing within the business and technology industry.
Today, many organizations are starting to adopt an IoT strategy in order to be innovative, fast-driven and stay ahead of their competitors. However, the biggest barrier for enterprises is that this is new for them and they do not know how IoT works and what to do with it.
When it comes to the implementation of IoT projects, there are several challenges to face and many factors to consider. So, what will it take to maximize value of an IoT project, and make it successful?
1. Know Your Business Case
First things first: Know and understand your business case. Many enterprises are trying to find business cases to implement their (first) IoT solutions. Keep in mind that when getting started with your IoT journey, it is important to understand what you want to achieve with your project and which relevant environmental aspects will be best for the project. By preparing the specific business objectives at hand and knowing the environmental aspects, it will give you more insight to choose the right technology.
Among companies that have started with IoT, issues like a lack of necessary skills and questions around security and privacy can form a challenge. This is also something you need to keep in mind with your business case and determine the right technologies for your project.
When getting started with your IoT journey, it is important to understand what you want to achieve with your project and which relevant environmental aspects will be best for the project.”
So, let’s take a relatable example: . IoT has exerted an influence on the facility management sector and ‘smart’ buildings. Suppose your facility business is to clean buildings owned and hired by other companies. To optimize the cleaning planning, you might need to know the current occupation of rooms and workplaces. The given information is based on the actual time the room or workplace has been occupied. However, how do you obtain this data if you are not allowed to use the customer’s network due to security constraints?
By selecting the right technology, this security issue can be solved. This is also where our second practice (and question) occurs: “What will you choose as the right IoT technology in order to achieve your business objectives?”
2. Know Your Preferred IoT Hardware and Platform
By keeping the company’s business case in mind, the next step is to be aware of your IoT hardware and platforms. This might form a challenge, since almost every large-scale platform is providing an IoT stack nowadays. The IoT stack contains the following components:
- Constrained devices and sensors: temperature, accelerometer, humidity, air pressure, motion, gas, GPS, etc. Constrained devices are mostly battery powered units
- Gateways and smart devices: Lora Gateways (Kerlink, Lorank8), Mobile, Car systems, etc.
- IoT platform: The platform where all data arrives will be analyzed and triggers business systems when conditions are met (IBM Watson, AWS IoT, Azure IoT,)
- Smart apps: Smart apps to control everything from point 1 to 3.
The current IoT vendor landscape is mainly divided in these four components, and enterprises in those sectors are rapidly increasing. The key components listed above are essential to understand and investigate when deciding which technologies can bring value to the IoT solution within your business.
3. Ensure the Business Can Operate the Environment
So, what’s next? Imagine you need to install 1,000 devices. The maintenance of those devices can form a challenge since you use all the components (Gateways, IoT platform and maybe your smart apps) within the platforms. How will you cope with defaults or even worse, replacement when a device is broken? How will such devices be carefully protected?
Here’s another situation: Suppose you have 2,000 workplaces. How do you know which devices are placed in the rooms and/or workplaces? How do you keep track of those devices? It is essential to generate a well-thought-out strategy and think about the ongoing investment in supporting the environment. Is it necessary to have such volumes of devices? What will you do with all that data?
4. Continuously Monitor Your Platform
It is important to continuously monitor your IoT platform (with a control tower app) because there are many components to be aware of.
- Some elements to be monitored in your IoT platform are:
- System availability
- “I am alive” signals from the devices
- Battery level
- Data transfer and integration issues
… and many more
The control tower should visualize the actual situation, have triggers to spot trends and should smartly connect to the right person or party.
Mendix, the leading high-productivity platform for rapid application development, is an ideal solution to make this happen. The Mendix Platform generates fast results and can adapt and enhanced the app easily throughout the whole dynamic lifecycle of the IoT solution.
An Example of a Successful IoT Project
The revolution of Smart Apps can be the answer for many enterprises. ITvisors is the implementation partner for the project BeSense, which is a Smart Buildings IoT application in use for several clients.
The BeSense platform is a successful IoT solution consisting of an application and data platform whereby the sensors provide (right) data on, among other things, CO2 levels in buildings, temperature, occupation, humidity, light intensity, activity (usage) and so forth. The Smart App mainly focuses on four key target groups:
1. Cleaners and cleaning operation managers: By using the BeSense app, the cleaning team receive information about which rooms, offices, public spaces, toilets and so forth need cleaning. Additionally, they also gain insight into tasks and planning and can enter information in the app on anything requiring attention (e.g. broken lamps that need to be replaced);
2. Employees: With this application employees can see which workplaces are available and how occupied a specific department/workplace is;
3. Facility managers: In order to improve and optimize facility management, maintenance and hospitality, facility managers are using the BeSense application to receive general information of a building. This provides them with insight which can be useful for renovations or newly built buildings;
4. CEOs: It is important for CEO’s to monitor the occupation and usage of their office building, enabling them to save costs and make smart decisions.
ITvisors has developed the end user application and control tower in Mendix. Sensor manufacturer Clickey (member of the LoRa Alliance) is delivering the IoT devices. The device sensor data is received in the Azure Cloud.
IoT is a journey. In this journey is project management, a critical piece of the puzzle, and perhaps it even has a greater role than your initial technology directions.”
After reading our four learnings, you can ask yourself the following question: “Is your business ready for IoT ?” Well, yes, it is. IoT is a journey. In this journey is project management, a critical piece of the puzzle, and perhaps it even has a greater role than your initial technology directions. As IoT technology still remains a challenge for most enterprises, it is important for your business to look at the right organizational skills, expertise, and methodology.
This article was written by Marco Den Hartog, Solution Architect at ITvisors