"Electricity changed nearly everything about the way we live and work—and that scale of transformation is possible with the Internet of Things."
— Ian Goldin, Director of Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford
To start off, IoT is a modern technological phenomenon where compatible devices can communicate with each other using the Internet and coordinate their actions by collection and exchanging data amongst themselves. A more basic definition describes IoT as the concept of connecting almost every device with an on and off switch to the Internet, which pretty much includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices, etc. According to Gartner, by the year 2020, there will be more than 26 billion operational IoT devices worldwide.
Human civilization has peaked in terms of inter-personal communication, but we are still far behind in terms of person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communications. Although the concept of person-to-machine communication and machine-to-machine communications has been around for quite some time, it is still in its nascent stages. With that being said, the recent technological developments in machine learning and AI (Artificial Intelligence), has finally enabled us to reach the precipice of applied technology where the norm for person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communication transcends conventional IVR prompts.
The potential scope of IoT and its applications is a topic for another time. In this post, we shall discuss a few distinct pointers that highlight how the recent developments of IoT technology stand to influence IT in general, for Unified Communication technologies.
1. Process Automation
Business process automation involving Unified Communication and its associated IT requirements depends upon two distinct sets of needs. Obviously, the primary need is to develop and deploy optimized operational strategies that prove to be beneficial across all business aspects. These “optimized operational strategies” should be primarily focused on providing operational support to each and every business stakeholder, especially the employees/end-users. It should also help management executives to monitor and maintain the established strategic objectives of the business. Although achieving this level of operational harmony is no easy task.
On the other hand, IT also needs to cater to its very own needs and requirements, rapidly adapting to the ever-changing business requirements and demands. The size, scope, and priority of these needs vary from business to business. In scenarios where UC is also involved, new IT demands and requirements crop up, which are crucial to support the structure for real-time communication prospects of a distributed business.
This is where good old “human intelligence” and strategic planning comes in. Although, due to the extensive scale of connectivity and the complex networking involved with IoT and its application, there are a lot of touchpoints that need to be considered and monitored. For IT personnel, this is no easy task, but on the other hand, it also makes their jobs a whole lot easier. This is because of the fact that it brings along several advantageous opportunities to automate the numerous functions and processes involved in industrial UC communication models.
The huge number of devices with IoT sensors and intelligent routing enables industries to create a robust connected network, which helps such businesses and industries make the best and the most strategically crucial decisions based on real-time data from individual endpoints and engagement channels. Based on this information, the IoT part of unified communication models can then be additionally configured to execute the resulting strategic operational decisions. This is where the true process automation aspect of unified communication lies.
Another application of IoT-backed UC and process automation involves using its easy-to-use and real-time connectivity aspect to help employees make the change towards a UC communication model much easier. Such employees can be brought onboard a UC communication model through personalized self-guided training material and walkthroughs. This way, IT personnel do not have to spend time individually on each employee, further improving the adoption timeline as well.
2. Improved IT Resource and Network Management
IT resource and network management is a different industrial discipline on its own, but with the recent developments of technology, IT in general is shrinking while industrial IT needs are becoming more and more complex. The implementation of IoT-enabled Unified Communication models also creates a greater IT network performance requirements, which can only be handled by IT departments enables with enhanced capabilities.
So how does the greater IT network performance requirements help improve IT resource and network management? Well, as more and more IoT-enabled smart devices are integrated into an industry’s operational network, they create new real-time data sources. The new IoT-enabled data sources will greatly help IT departments to automate more sub-processes like bandwidth allocation, while also enabling them to identify network discrepancies and implement mitigation strategies on a much quicker timeline.
With IoT-based UC models, IT departments enjoy a greater scale and scope of troubleshooting. Other aspects of IT operations which include tasks like resource upgrades, patches, network access management, and such can be done in real-time without any implementational delay. These are but a few examples of how IoT-enabled Unified Communication models help make necessary IT tasks more simpler, effective, and agile. The graph above, sourced from Yokogawa, further helps to describe the various touchpoints influenced by IoT and unified communications.
3. New Professional Roles for IT
We can all agree on the fact that with more IoT-enabled devices and dynamic UC models, IT departments worldwide can work with a leadership capacity and help businesses leverage this recent technology for a greater competitive edge. However, this scenario is still far away from being actually implemented as there are concerns regarding its success. Still, this approach may prove to be disadvantageous if your competitors actually start to implement and transform their operations to gain a significant competitive advantage with strategic IoT-enabled UC communication models.
Source: Accenture Technology
In a way, IoT and its UC applications tend to work towards the Big Data trend, which requires IT resources and personnel with enhanced capabilities. Without such resources and personnel, industries and businesses might become overwhelmed with all the raw data involved in IoT-enabled systems. All this raw data involved creates a need for IT professionals with analytics expertise to make sense of the immense amount of data and to manage it properly.
With more and more industries and businesses going forward with metrics-based-decision making, new and more diversified roles for IT will soon become a necessity rather than just a luxury for industries and businesses of all sorts and sizes. The image above, sourced from Accenture Technology, illustrates a few opportunities IT professionals can diversify into with the help of IoT-enabled UC models.
At first glance, IoT and UC may seem to be an odd technological pairing. But implementing these two modern and distinct technologies to work in tandem can offer businesses and industries with an unprecedented level of business intelligence and collaboration. Both these technologies when working in sync and can not only influence conventional IT practices and tasks but can also help to simplify processes at the data collection stage as well as the decision execution stage. Although this technological amalgamation requires IT with enhanced capabilities and resources, it can help businesses attain the next level of business synergy and automation.