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Future-Proofing Your IoT Infrastructure

For all the value and disruptive potential that Internet of Things (IoT) solutions provide, corporate buyers face a dilemma. Today’s IoT technologies are still immature point solutions that address emerging use cases with evolving technology standards. Buyers are concerned that what they buy today may become functionally or technologically obsolete tomorrow. Faced with this dilemma, many defer buying even if the IoT solutions they buy today offer tremendous value to their organizations.

This post describes a planning strategy called “future-proofing” that helps managers, buyers, and planners deal with obsolescence.

What causes IoT solution obsolescence?

An IoT solution, whether you buy it now or in the future, can become functionally obsolete for several reasons, as described in Figure One.  Unlike more established technologies, today’s immature and fast evolving nature of IoT solutions, amplifies the risk of early obsolescence.

For example, today there are multiple Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) connectivity options – SigFox, LoRa, RPMA (by Ingenu), Symphony Link (by Link Labs), NB-IoT and LTE-M. While each option has advantages and disadvantages, a subset of these will eventually “win” out as technology standards, business models and use cases emerge.

Similarly, there are 350+ IoT platforms in the marketplace today (source: “Current state of the 360+ platforms”, IoT Analytics, June 9, 2016). While many of these platforms target specific applications and industry segments, consolidation is inevitable as there are more vendors than the market can eventually support. The major IoT platform vendors (Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM, GE, et al), currently on a market share land grab, will drive consolidation when they begin to acquire select vertical platforms to gain rapid access to those markets.

What is Future-Proofing?

According to Collins English Dictionary (10th edition), “future-proof” is defined as:

“protected from consequences in the future, esp. pertaining to a technology that protect it from early obsolescence”

Because of the high cost of enterprise technologies, many buyers perceive obsolescence as bad. To them, future-proofing means keeping the technology as long as possible in order to minimize costs and maximize return on investment (ROI). Their companies have standardized their business processes, policies and even their technical support on the technologies that they have bought. When a solution goes End of Life (EOL) and transitions to a newer version, it means that managers will have to recertify and retrain everyone on the “new” solution all over again. In general, transitions happen over a period of months (and sometimes years) in large global companies. During this time, multiple generations of the solution will co-exist, with each requiring different processes and policies.

In today’s fast moving IoT market, planned and unplanned obsolescence will be the norm for the foreseeable future. The traditional concept of “future-proofing” doesn’t apply, and can lead to significant, adverse business disruption.

In the era of cloud based solutions and IoT, future-proofing is not about outguessing the future, and choosing the “right” solution so as to never have to “buy” again. Nor is it overbuying technology now to avoid buying in the future. Finally, future-proofing is not about avoiding change. Future-proofing is a solution lifecycle management strategy. It is a continuous process to maximize solution flexibility and options, while making deliberate choices and managing risk.

What does a future-proof IoT infrastructure look like?

In planning the future-proofed IoT infrastructure, managers must first understand its key characteristics, and then define specific requirements for each of those characteristics. At a high level, these characteristics include:

  • Usable– the infrastructure and solutions achieve all functional needs with no loss in performance, security, service level agreements (SLA) over the desired time period.

  • Scalable – supports future needs, applications, devices

  • Supportable – resolves technical, performance, reliability, SLA issues

  • Changeable – addresses “lock-in” and facilitates migration to updated solutions on your schedule based on your needs

  • Economical – the total cost of ownership of the solution stays within forecasted ranges

A framework for future-proofing your IoT infrastructure

Change is constant and cannot be avoided. The driving principle behind future-proofing is managing change, not avoiding or preventing it. This principle recognizes that every solution has a useful functional life, and that what is functionally useful today may be obsolete and discarded tomorrow.

A properly designed future-proof plan provides the organization with options and flexibility, rather than lock-in and risk. It prevents suboptimal decision-making by managing the infrastructure on a system level, rather than at the individual component level.

Future-proofing your IoT infrastructure is a three step process (Figure Two). It is not a “once and done” exercise but must be done annually to remain relevant.

Plan and Design

The first step of the future-proofing process is to identify and place the various IoT infrastructure, systems and solutions into one of nine actionable categories. These categories are shown in Figure Three. The horizontal rows represent the “change” category, while the vertical columns represent the timeframe decision timeframe.

The actual classification of the IoT infrastructure solutions into one of the categories is determined in conjunction with IT, operations and the business units. Key considerations for determining the “future-proof category” include:

  • Usability/functionality – functional utility, compliance with standards, performance against needs, SLAs, and performance

  • Scalability – ability to meet current and future needs, anticipated change in standards

  • Support – resources, expertise, reliability

  • Ease of transition –contractual agreements, technology interdependence/dependence, specialized skills

  • Economics – maintenance costs, licensing/content/subscription fees, utilities, new replacement costs, transition costs

Source and Build

Once the proper categorization is completed, the second step is to procure the necessary solutions, whether they are hardware or software. This requires that a sourcing strategy be put into place over the desired time period. The terms sourcing and buying are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Sourcing is about ensuring strategic access to supply while buying is more transactional. In executing the future-proofing plan, procurement managers must understand the supplier product lifecycle, and develop specific tactics.

As an example, a large global company decides to standardize around a specific IoT edge device (and specific generation) and technology for the next five years. In order to maintain access to this supply during this time period, it employs a number of tactics, including:

  • Stocking of spare units to be deployed in the future

  • Placing large “Last time” orders before that version of the solution is discontinued

  • Sourcing refurbished versions of the technology

  • Incorporating leasing as sourcing strategy

  • Negotiating contractual arrangements with the vendor to continue the solution line

Support and Monitor

The third step in the future-proofing strategy is to keep the IoT infrastructure and solutions operational over the desired time period. This is relatively easy when the solutions and technologies are being serviced and supported by the vendors. However, as vendors transition to newer technology and solution versions, buyers may find limited support and expertise. This problem is amplified the further you are from the original end-of-life date.

To keep the infrastructure and solutions fully operational during this time, companies must employ various reactive and proactive tactics. Some of these include:

  • Incorporating and installing vendor firmware updates to maximize functionality, apply bug fixes and extend useful life. Vendors may issue firmware updates on both End of Life and current generation solutions.

  • Purchase warranty and extended warranty and maintenance service contracts to assure access to support

  • Develop in-house maintenance and repair capability

  • Negotiate special one-off engineering support services with the vendor or their designated contractors

About:

Benson Chan is an innovation catalyst at Strategy of Things, helping companies transform the Internet of Things into the Innovation of Things through its innovation laboratory, research analyst, consulting and acceleration (execution) services. He has over 25 years of scaling innovative businesses and bringing innovations to market for Fortune 500 and start-up companies. Benson shares his deep experiences in strategy, business development, marketing, product management, engineering and operations management to help IoTCentral readers address strategic and practical IoT issues.

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An accurate and well-structured security analysis is the key for a holistic security concept and therefore for a secure product. But planing and performing a security analysis can be a hard nut to crack. After collecting experience in more than 6 big IoT projects over the last 2 years I decided to share some key facts that can make your life easier if you have to go the same way.
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Most IoT projects today are unsuccessful

A recent Cisco survey of 1845 business and IT decision-makers in mid market and enterprise companies, conducted in April 2017, found that nearly three quarters of Internet of Things (IoT) projects were not successful.

The top five reasons include:

  • Long completion times,
  • Poor quality of the data collected,
  • Lack of internal expertise,
  • IoT integration,
  • Budget overruns.

These results are not surprising given the immaturity of the IoT solutions, evolving technology standards, and limited expertise among the IoT community.

In light of these survey results, how do you ensure that your first IoT project implementation will be successful? In this post, I’ll share ten best practices for managers planning their first IoT project.

Best Practices for IoT Projects

Best Practice #1 – Solve a problem that someone cares about. Whether it’s a pilot project, or a mini IoT project added to a larger non-IoT project, make the project relevant by addressing a real need. This ensures visibility and support from the organization, whether it is something as simple as time to answer your questions, commitment from management, or contribute resources. Equally important, it gives you a foundation from which to build follow-on projects.

Best Practice #2 – Plan conservatively. As an early IoT adopter, your organization’s capabilities will be limited and the learning curve will be steep. Managers must plan for this in several ways. Don’t try to “change the world”, but instead focus on doing one or two things well. Define the requirements well and resist scope creep. Build in a larger than usual contingency for schedule, resources and cost.

Best Practice #3 – Fix outdated processes and policies. IoT solutions can disrupt existing organizational processes and policies. If you fix the technology but not the processes and policies, you will just get “bad news faster”. Implementing the technology side of IoT is only half the solution. Realize its full potential by updating affected, or in some cases, creating new processes and policies.

Best Practice #4 – Partner for success. IoT solutions affect multiple teams within the organization. Partner with these affected teams early in the planning process to get their requirements, gain their support (knowledge, resources, and budget), and leverage their influence to remove barriers during the execution stages. Partner with your organization’s digital transformation or innovation office, if one exists.

Equally important, partner with IoT solution vendors throughout the process. At this stage of the market, their solutions are still evolving. Work with your IoT vendor at a deeper level than you would with other vendors. Stay in close contact and leverage their product management and technical support teams throughout the project.  Co-design the solution and project with them – tell them what features you like to see, report bugs, and test updated versions of the product.

Best Practice #5 – Augment your capabilities with outside resources. Address gaps in your internal capabilities by leveraging outside resources. Build your IoT knowledge through information shared on industry blogs, publications and analyst reports. Augment your project planning and execution capabilities by contracting with subject matter experts, IoT consultants, and innovation labs.

Best Practice #6 – Address resistance to change. The more disruptive the IoT solution is, the more likely you will face adoption resistance both internally and externally. Whether the changes are small or large, ensure IoT project success with a change adoption plan early on in the project. Identify who is affected and how they are affected, then understand their objections. Craft a plan to address these objections, be transparent and communicate regularly, and implement well before the solution goes live. Be responsive and act with a sense of urgency to any concerns raised during the project.

Best Practice #7 – Define extended project success and goals. During the project planning stage, identify the key success outcomes of the project. Beyond the goals directly enabled by the IoT solution, consider goals around internal capabilities development, gaps identification (processes, policies, technologies, resources, etc.), organization readiness, channel and customer acceptance. Treat your early IoT projects as learning experiences, and use these projects to learn, experiment, uncover challenges, develop the organization and go faster on future projects.

Best Practice #8 – Drive shared ownership and accountability. IoT solutions affect multiple teams across the organization. Because of this, you must establish a structure of shared ownership and accountability to drive project success. Identify and secure the commitment of the critical executive sponsors and  business unit owners. Align the value and relevance of the IoT solution to their team’s goals and needs to drive their ownership.

Best Practice #9 – Establish a learning culture. To ensure that your subsequent IoT projects are successful, you must establish a rapid learning culture right from the start. During the project, establish a process for experimenting, prototyping and problem solving. At the end of the project, document the knowledge and expertise gained, and then develop a system to retain and transfer that knowledge. Identify who the “experts” are, the lessons learned, and project debriefs. Develop a system to share that knowledge across the organization, with solutions vendors, consultants, and other resources.

Best Practice #10 – Be flexible and adapt. Despite careful planning and risk management, your first IoT projects will still be significant learning experiences. You know what you know, but you don’t know what you don’t know. Your planning and risk management is based on what you know. Unforeseen things happen because of the things you, your consultants, or the vendors don’t know. In this type of environment, the project teams should be nimble and agile to respond to the unplanned. Incorporate larger contingencies in project plans. Prepare your sponsors and owners to expect change. Select your project team members for their ability to quickly adapt and learn, as well as for their knowledge and execution ability.

About:

Benson Chan is an innovation catalyst at Strategy of Things, helping companies transform the Internet of Things into the Innovation of Things through its innovation laboratory, research analyst, consulting and acceleration (execution) services. He has over 25 years of scaling innovative businesses and bringing innovations to market for Fortune 500 and start-up companies. Benson shares his deep experiences in strategy, business development, marketing, product management, engineering and operations management to help IoTCentral readers address strategic and practical IoT issues.

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Manufacturers seek quantifiable ROI before making leap to IIoT implementation

By now, most manufacturers have heard of the promise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

In this bold new future of manufacturing, newly installed sensors will collect previously unavailable data on equipment, parts, inventory and even personnel that will then be shared with existing systems in an interconnected “smart” system where machines learn from other machines and executives can analyze reports based on the accumulated data.

By doing so, manufacturers can stamp out inefficiencies, eliminate bottlenecks and ultimately streamline operations to become more competitive and profitable.

However, despite the tremendous potential, there is a palpable hesitation by some in the industry to jump into the deep end of the IIoT pool.

When asked, this hesitation stems from one primary concern: If we invest in IIoT, what specific ROI can we expect and when? How will it streamline my process such that it translates into greater efficiencies and actual revenue in the short and long term?

Although it may come as a surprise, the potential return can actually be identified and quantified prior to any implementation. Furthermore, implementations can be scalable for those that want to start with “baby steps.”

In many cases, this is being facilitated by a new breed of managed service providers dedicated to IIoT that have the expertise to conduct in-plant evaluations that pinpoint a specific, achievable ROI.

These managed service providers can then implement and manage all aspects from end-to-end so manufacturers can focus on core competencies and not becoming IIoT experts. Like their IT counterparts, this can often be done on a monthly fee schedule that minimizes, or eliminates, up-front capital investment costs.


DEFINING IIOT

Despite all the fanfare for the Internet of Things, the truth is many manufacturers still have a less-than-complete understanding of what it is and how it applies to industry.

While it might appear complicated from the outside looking in, IIoT is merely a logical extension of the increasing automation and connectivity that has been a part of the plant environment for decades.

In fact, in some ways many of the component parts and pieces required already exist in a plant or are collected by more manual methods.

However, a core principle of the Industrial “Internet of Things” is to vastly supplement and improve upon the data collected through the integration of sensors in items such as products, equipment, and containers that are integral parts of the process.

In many cases, these sensors provide a tremendous wealth of critical information required to increase efficiency and streamline operations.

Armed with this new information, IIoT then seeks to facilitate machine-to-machine intelligence and interaction so that the system can learn to become more efficient based on the available data points and traffic patterns. In this way, the proverbial “left hand” now knows what the “right hand” is doing.

In addition, the mass of data collected can then be turned into reports that can be analyzed by top executives and operations personnel to provide further insights on ways to increase operational savings and revenue opportunities.

In manufacturing, the net result can impact quality control, predictive maintenance, supply chain traceability and efficiency, sustainable and green practices and even customer service.


BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER

The difficulty, however, comes from bridging the gap between “here” and “there.”

Organizations need to do more than just collect data; it must be turned into actionable insights that increase productivity, generate savings, or uncover new income streams.

For Pacesetter, a national processor and distributor of flat rolled steel that operates processing facilities in Atlanta, Chicago and Houston, IIoT holds great promise.

“At Pacesetter, there are so many ways we can use sensors to streamline our operation, says CEO Aviva Leebow Wolmer. “I believe we need to be constantly investigating new technologies and figuring out how to integrate them into our business.”

Pacesetter has always been a trendsetter in the industry. Despite offering a commodity product, the company often takes an active role in helping its customers identify ways to streamline operations as well.

The company is currently working with Industrial Intelligence, a managed service provider that offers full, turnkey end-to-end installed IIoT solutions, to install sensors in each of its facilities to increase efficiency by using dashboards that allow management to view information in real time.

“Having access to real-time data from the sensors and being able to log in and see it to figure out the answer to a problem or question so you can make a better decision – that type of access is incredible,” says Leebow Wolmer.

She also appreciates the perspective that an outsider can bring to the table.

“Industrial Intelligence is in so many different manufacturing plants in a given year and they see different things,” explains Leebow Wolmer. “They see what works, what doesn’t, and can provide a better overall solution not just from the IIoT perspective but even best practices.”

For Pacesetter, the move to IIoT has already yielded significant returns.

In a recently completed project, Industrial Intelligence installed sensors designed to track production schedules throughout the plant. The information revealed two bottlenecks: one in which coils were not immediately ready for processing – slowing production – and another where the skids on which they are placed for shipping were often not ready.

By making the status of both coil and skids available for real time monitoring and alerting key personnel when production slowed, Pacesetter was able to push the production schedule through the existing ERP system.

This increased productivity at the Atlanta plant by 30%. Similar implementations in the other two facilities yielded similar increases in productivity.


TAKING THE FIRST STEP

According to Darren Tessitore, COO of Industrial Intelligence, the process of examining the possible ROI begins with a factory walk-through with trained expertise in manufacturing process improvement and IoT engineers that understand the back-end technologies.

A detailed analysis is then prepared, outlining the scope of the recommended IIoT implementation, exact areas and opportunities for improvement and the location of new sensors.

“The analysis gives us the ability to build the ROI,” says Tessitore. “We’re going to know exactly how much money this will make by making the changes. This takes much of the risk out of it so executives are not guessing how it might help.”

Once completed, a company like Industrial Intelligence can then provide a turnkey, end-to-end-solution.

According to Tessitore, this covers the entire gamut: all hardware and software, station monitors, etc.; the building of real-time alerts, reports & analytics; training management on how to use data points to increase profits; and even continuously monitoring and improving the system as needed.

“Unless you’re a huge company, you really don’t have somebody who can come in and guide you and create a cost effective solution to help you compete with the larger players in the space,” says Pacesetter’s Leebow Wolmer. “I think that’s what Industrial Intelligence offers that can’t be created on your own.”

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” she adds. “They have some things that can give you a little bit of IIoT or they can take an entire factory to a whole new level. By doing this they can be cost effective for a variety of sizes of organizations.”

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Not all Devices are IoT or IIoT

Introduction

Business opportunities created by Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial IoT (IIoT) are among the most
debated topics, as these are designed to function in a broad range of consumer and industrial applications.
Manufacturers of IoT components believe in this new trend, but many of them still not understand the essence
of the IoT concept. In reality, not every controlled device is an IoT nor IIoT.

The IoT/IIoT concept is a communication-based eco-system in which control devices, CCTV cameras and
industrial sensors communicate via the Internet with cloud-based computer systems and data sources, and
the result of this process is displayed on a computer screen, smartphone or used for optimal activation of a
process. Through an IoT/IIoT ecosystem you may boost productivity and achieve unique benefits. Examples
of IoT/IIoT include applications such as; remote operation of home appliances, medical devices, check on
availability of a product in a store, warnings of unusual conditions and malfunctions and more.

Leading market research firms already estimate that by 2020 there will be over 20 billion devices worldwide,
defined as part of IoT/IIoT systems. Although the forecasted number is growing every year, it is not clear
whether these figures correctly refer to what can be and what cannot be considered IoT or IIoT. It is strongly
recommended that decision factors such as outlined below shall be taken into consideration.

Devices not considered as IoT/IIoT

In reality not all devices can be accepted to the “IoT/IIoT Club”. Through the following three examples I will
try to clarify the main considerations referring to this topic.
a) You purchased a home air conditioner activated by a smartphone or a web based application. If the
packing label shows “Wi-Fi-Ready”, you can do that, but it will not necessarily make it an IoT, since remote
activation by itself is not a sufficient condition to call it an IoT.
b) You consider to add a vibration sensor to a large water pump or gas turbine to diagnose a malfunction.
This is not an IIoT, as the vibration sensor device is reporting to a special PLC and an ICS computer
which control the operation of that machinery and may stop it if a fault is detected.
c) You purchased a CCTV camera, which is connected to a home computer or a VCR for security
surveillance. This is also not an IoT, because 24/7 loop recording system does not require additional data
available from cloud based resources and not require cloud based computing.

Devices considered as IoT/IIoT

Here are three commercial, consumer oriented and industrial examples, that according to listed explanations
are considered appropriate for being considered as IoT/IIoT ecosystem.
a) Computerized control of a washing machine. The IoT ecosystem using the built-in controller which
support the decision related to optimal starting of the washing process. Consequently, the IoT controller
device communicates with cloud based data sources related to the following considerations:
• Is there a report from the electric company on unusually high loading of the power grid at the
neighborhood? If yes, the washing process is delayed.
• Is it forbidden to cause unusual noise in a residential area such as may be caused by the washing
machine? If yes, the washing process is delayed
• Is there sufficient amount of hot water from the sun-roof boiler as required for the washing? If not, the
activation is delayed until electric heating of the water is completed.

The operation of a solar power plant can be controlled by an IIoT process. After the power plant receives
a request to start supplying power, the IIoT ecosystem system checks the following conditions:
• Is the forecasted intensity of sun-rays during the next few hours adequate to generate the required
energy to the grid? If not, the power plant activation is canceled.
• Are there alternative electric power resources that are more suitable to generate electricity for the
requested period? If yes, the power plant activation is rejected.
• If there are no other alternatives, the solar power plant will be activated with limiting conditions, and
the power grid operator will be advised accordingly.
c) An order is received to purchase a certain type meat for home use. Following this requirement, the
customer can start and IoT-based search using his smartphone:
• In which food chain is this item available, and what is the ticket price
• Which stores are active during the hours when the purchase is required
• The outcome of that process shall be a list of options sent to the customer
From the three examples listed above you may learn that the IoT/IIoT concept is applicable when it is
impossible to perform a simple interaction between the requesting entity and the device which provides the
service. IoT/IIoT systems allow such interactive process through cloud-based data resources.

Is there a reason for concerns?

Definitely yes, because huge amounts of cheap IoT components without professional configuration and
without cyber security measures will flood the internet network and allow cyber-attacks from all directions and
for any purpose. Can ordinary home owners properly configure these devices, replace the default password
and detect DDoS-type security breach? Of course not, and that's the problem.
Today, as a result of strong expectations towards IoT market, none wants to remember the early 2000’s and
the dot.com bubble. Then, well-known and professional companies invested billions of dollars in products
that did not provide benefits for which users were willing to pay. The benefits came only years later, and then
more resources were required to create new business models in order to recover their losses.

Summary

We all hope for huge IoT/IIoT deployments in the future, as this is good for users, vendors and also for
innovation. But…., anyone considering to develop a new IoT/IIoT ecosystem, shall focus on finding a real
need and properly design a cloud-data based solution that delivers significant benefits.
Cyber protection for any IT and ICS architecture consists of three essential elements that are achievable: a)
the use of security technologies, b) strict adherence to policies, and c) careful user behavior. This is also true
for IoT/IIoT ecosystems. Innovative technologies, components and architectures that will include cyber
protection as part of the IoT/IIoT ecosystem at no extra cost, will definitely drive the success.

Photo credit Martin Košáň via Flickr.

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As businesses are trying to leverage every opportunity regarding IoT by trying to find ways to partner with top universities and research centers, here is a list of the Top 20 co-occurring topics of the Top 500 Internet of Things Authors in the academic field. This gives an idea of research frontiers of the leaders.
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What are common features of IIoT and SCADA/HMI and differences between them? And what advantages do Internet of Things Platforms have over SCADA systems? Find out answers in our new presentation.

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We've updated our IoT platform presentation to tell you more about it, derived products and solutions.

Pleasant viewing!

                           

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Our software offers fully functional monitoring solutions for healthcare organizations. Fast deployment, easy integration, and great usability guarantee quick troubleshooting to your healthcare IT teams.

AggreGate IoT Platform enables centralized monitoring and data aggregation for various wearable medical devices and mobile e-health applications. Intelligent Big Data processing algorithms allow detecting negative trends proactively, providing a strong foundation for building customized predictive medicine solutions.

In addition, choosing AggreGate solutions for your medical infrastructure monitoring, you get all types of industry-specific management.

Find out what AggreGate can offer for your health, medical devices, and facilities in IoT Solutions for Healthcare and Social Institutions website section.

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Internet of Things (IoT) solutions offer tremendous and disruptive value for customers, but sometimes have the unintended effect of adversely impacting the channel that it is sold and serviced through. This results in slow adoption of IoT solutions, even if those solutions have significant and tangible customer value.


Common product-market fit mistakes

While many IoT vendors understand the concept of product-market fit, a common mistake that many product managers make is to overlook or understate the impact of the solution on stakeholders that “touch” the solution (Figure One) beyond the end user customer. When the needs of all the primary and secondary stakeholders are aligned with the solution, market adoption is facilitated. When the needs of these stakeholders conflict, market adoption is slowed or even stopped. 

One example of an external stakeholder is the channel reseller. Many manufacturers incorporate a channel strategy to market, sell and service their products in order to scale the business. The channel can be an one tier channel (manufacturer sells direct to reseller, who then resells it to the end customer) or a two tier channel (manufacturer sells to distributor, who then resells it to reseller, who finally resells it to the end customer). 

Consider an IoT based predictive maintenance solution for commercial heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. With this solution, the channel resellers will now know when the parts in the HVAC system are wearing out and a proactive service call is needed. While this assures the customers that their HVAC system will have minimum downtime, it may not be so good for the reseller. Prior to the incorporation of IoT into an HVAC system, channel resellers may have set up a service agreement with the end user where they would perform routine maintenance four times a year. With the IoT solution in place, it may reveal that they only need to come out once or twice a year to do maintenance. The reduced number of visits mean that their revenues from service calls is also reduced. Given this reality, the channel resellers have no incentive to adopt the predictive maintenance solution. 

A second common mistake is to look at product-market fit from a static perspective. In fact, the product manager must look at the product-market fit over the solution’s entire lifecycle from purchase to retirement (Figure Two). At each of the stages over the lifecycle, there may be different people or organizations “touching” the solution and performing a slightly different task in support of common activities. Problems arise when the needs of each party are inconsistent or misaligned.

Conflicts, or friction arise between the buyer, the vendor and the other affected stakeholders when there is misalignment of their needs. These needs may include performance, cost, revenue, operating efficiency, roles and responsibilities. Some of these misalignments may be managed, while others may be more severe and require a solution redesign.


Best practices to remove the friction points


Practice#1 - Expand your product-market fit analysis over the entire solution lifecycle.

As you design your IoT solutions, map out the different stakeholders that touch your product, from the time it leaves your hands delivery to the time it is retired from use. Identify who they are, why the customer buys from them, the tasks they do, the value they add, and how they make their money.

 How does your solution impact the services the channel provides, their value, and their financials?  What is changed and disintermediated?

It is not always possible to avoid disintermediation. But with this understanding, work with the channel to co-create a solution that removes the friction points, creates new value and opportunities.


Practice #2 - Create new value beyond product innovation.

Product managers must think beyond product and technology innovation. IoT solutions can also provide business model, service, and customer experience innovation. When designing the IoT solution with the channel needs in mind, look for opportunities to create these forms of innovation that will provide significant value for all stakeholders.

Customer experience innovation transforms the “customer journey”. It re-imagines how a customer uses a product or service. It uses data collected to create new processes, business partnerships, organizations and technology to support the new journey. Examples include Apple iPod/iTunes changes how we buy and listen to music, Uber changes how we go from one place to another, Netflix changes how we watch television, and Amazon Echo ((“Alexa”) changes how we control devices.

Services innovation transforms how, what and when a service is rendered, and who it is being offered to. It enhances a current value, or creates an entirely new value that was not possible before. A product can also be transformed into a service (e.g. car rentals). Some examples include Software-as-a-Service changes how we buy software, Uber changes how we go from one place to another, and Amazon Web Services changes businesses use IT infrastructure.

Business model innovation. A business model describes how an organization creates and delivers value to its customers. It is defined by nine parts – customer types, value to customer, sales channels, customer relationship types, revenue sources, operating resources, operational activities, key partnerships, and cost structure. Business model innovation transforms these nine parts to create to enhance or create new value to existing customers or to an entirely new customer base. Some example include Amazon Web Services “IT pay for you use” model, ZipCar’s “car sharing” model and Apple iPhone’s app ecosystem model.


Practice #3 - Develop marketing programs that incentivize the channel to pursue “green field” opportunities.

It is not always possible to redesign the solution to eliminate the misalignment between the stakeholders. In this type of scenario, develop marketing and channel programs that allow the channel to target new opportunities where the solution provides a significant competitive advantage. This will allow them to create new revenue streams that will offset any loss of revenues from the current business.

Recalling the predictive maintenance example in which the reseller is reluctant to offer the IoT based solution because their services revenues would decrease. However, the reseller can offer the solution to new customers (those it never had, including those customers who use a competitor’s solutions). The new solution may give them an unique compelling competitive advantage and offset potential revenue decreases when their customers convert to the new IoT solution in the future.


Practice # 4 - Help your channel identify suitable niches within their existing customer base.

While the channel may be reluctant to offer your IoT solution to all of their existing customers, there may be pockets within their base where your solution is in alignment with the reseller’s needs. They may have existing customers where the cost to service them is high, or the revenue impact is minimal, or are considering alternative offerings from other vendors.  Help the channel understand what these opportunities are, identify the target customer profiles, and develop conversion campaigns that allow them to sell to these customer niches.

About:

Benson Chan is an innovation catalyst at Strategy of Things, helping companies transform the Internet of Things into the Innovation of Things through its innovation laboratory, research analyst, consulting and acceleration (execution) services. He has over 25 years of scaling innovative businesses and bringing innovations to market for Fortune 500 and start-up companies. Benson shares his deep experiences in strategy, business development, marketing, product management, engineering and operations management to help IoTCentral readers address strategic and practical IoT issues.

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IoT and Energy Management

It’s not uncommon to drive about any major city at night and see many buildings illuminated despite the fact that the workers went home hours earlier. Likewise, manufacturing plants the world over often have equipment unnecessarily consuming energy during idle periods. Power plants create and store energy everyday and use energy distribution grids to distribute energy to users, but are they doing it “smartly?”

With rising concerns about global warming, this immense waste of energy undoubtedly hurts the environment, but it also hurts business. Offices, manufacturing plants, commercial spaces and power grids all stand to benefit financially from better and “smarter” energy management.

 

How IoT Reduces Energy Usage for Businesses and Manufacturing

In his article, “Report: Lofty Energy Management Goals Far Ahead of Reality,” (Panoramic Power, August 5, 2015) Jon Rabinowitz points out that most companies receive data on their energy usage only at the end of each billing cycle, which is usually a month at a time. By incorporating Internet of Things (IoT) technology, energy consumption data will be available in real-time, and energy-reducing measures can be implemented as soon as a problem gets detected (rather than waiting until the end of the month). Integrating smart devices through IoT technology will provide greater visibility into energy usage and help both industrial and commercial enterprises save energy, and as a result, save money.

Starting with simple, smart and low cost sensors, like User to User Information (UUI) and Feature Driven Development (FDD) devices, businesses can reduce energy usage and cost by dimming lights, turning off unnecessary equipment and improving the use the cooling/heating apparatus. Software that collects and correlates granular usage data, performs analytics and then converges information to increase efficiency will make manufacturing plants “smarter,” and thus more cost-effective.

Local and remote sensors that detect points of inefficiency quickly and perform triage to decrease waste will also reduce the need for maintenance as constant monitoring will detect small issues before they become big problems. Continuous optimization through 24/7 monitoring will assure that energy is not wasted during slow periods in between high-usage spans, while maximizing the use of energy-demanding equipment at critical times.

Specific Use Cases – Energy Production and Management

  • General Electric’s Asset Performance Management software connects disparate data sources in power plants, enabling data analytics to guide energy usage and to increase efficiency (“10 Real-Life Examples of IoT Powering the Future of Energy,” Internet of Business, Freddie Roberts, Oct. 7, 2016).

  • Duke Energy, a Florida-based electric power holding company, has developed a self-healing grid that automatically reconfigures itself when power goes out. Using digital smart sensors at sub stations and on power lines, the system automatically detects, isolates and reroutes power in the most efficient way when problems occur (Roberts).

  • Pacific Gas & Electric Company is testing drones as a means to monitor and evaluate electric infrastructure systems in hard-to-reach areas. The ease of access will allow more frequent and consistent monitoring and drastically reduce the amount of methane leaks and other unwanted disruptions. (Roberts).

 

Energy Saving in the Auto Sector

Nissan (manufacturer of the world’s best-selling electric car, the Leaf) and ENEL (Europe’s second largest power company) have teamed to develop an innovative vehicle-to-grid (V2G) system that creates mobile energy hubs, which also integrates the electric cars and the power grid. The system allows Leaf owners to charge at low-demand, cheap-tariff periods, while allowing owners to use the energy stored in the car’s battery to power their home during peak periods, or when power goes out. Owners can store excess energy, or return it to the grid, making the entire system more efficient for everyone (“Nissan and ENEL to test first Grid Integrated Vehicles in Denmark,” Copenhagen Capacity, December 11, 2015).

 

Conclusions

As evidenced by these specific use cases, IoT technology is making energy-intensive systems in power generation and in manufacturing far more efficient. It’s good for the environment, but it’s also good for business. Intelligent implementation of energy saving technology stands to benefit every business, from small commercial enterprises to the largest power producing utility companies in the world. It’s time to make the move to smarter energy usage, for both the environment and for your bottom line.

 

Originally published on the Unified Inbox blog

About the Author

Richard Meyers is a former high school teacher in the SF Bay Area who has studied business and technology at Stanford and UC-Berkeley. He has a single-digit handicap in golf and is passionate about cooking, wine and rock-n-roll.

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You’re sold on the Internet of Things (IoT) and its benefits for your organization. But how do you get in the IoT “game”? Where do you start? While there is a lot of information on the technology behind IoT, case studies, and visions of what it can do, there is not a lot of practical content on what you need to get started today. This post discusses five options that managers have for executing pilot IoT projects.
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The IoT needs to be distinguished from the Internet. The Internet, of course, represents a globally connected number of network, irrespective of a wired or wireless interconnection. IoT, on the other hand, specifically draws your attention to the ability of a ‘device’ to be tracked or identified within an IP structure according to the original supposition.
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IoT or Internet of Things solutions, built on a cloud-based infrastructure, create opportunities for new business models and value delivery methods. While many IoT solutions are usually sold as a “product”, many vendors are now beginning to offer IoT “as-a-service”. But selling a recurring revenue solution is not the same as selling an “one time” sale product. This post highlights seven best practices for selling an IoT as a service solution.
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The rise of the Internet of Things was just the beginning. There is something much bigger brewing. It’s called the Internet of Everything — otherwise known as IoE. Instead of the communications between electric-powered, internet-connected devices that the IoT allows, the IoE expands it exponentially. The IoE extends well beyond traditional IoT boundaries to include the countless everyday, disposable items in the world. If the IoT is the solar system, then the IoE is every galaxy in the universe.
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The world is full of normal people like you and me, but I love to think that superheroes live between us and I dream that maybe someday I could become one of them and make a better world with my super powers.

In the universe of superheroes fit gods, mutants, humans with special skills, but also the special agents. I found fun to find similarities between this fantastic world and the world of IoT platforms.  Compare and find a reasonable resemblance between IoT Platforms and Superheroes or Super villains is the goal of this article. Opinions as always are personal and subject to all kinds of comments and appreciations. Enjoy, the article.

About IoT Platforms

Many of my regular readers remember my article “It is an IoT Platform, stupid !.”. At that time, per Research and Markets, there were more than 260 IoT platforms, today some sources speak about 700 IoT platforms. I confess, I have not been able to follow the birth, evolution and in some cases death of all IoT platforms out there. I think that many enthusiasts like me also have given up keeping an updated list.

I cannot predict which IoT platforms will survive beyond 2020, or which will be the lucky start-ups that will be bought by big companies or will receive the investors' mana to become a Unicorn, but I like to speculate, and of course, I have my favourite winners and unlucky losers.

About my Own Methodology

Some reputed analysts have adapted their classification methodologies of IT solutions to put some order and consistency into the chaotic and confusing Internet of Things (IoT) platforms market. But given the moment of business excitement around the IoT, have appeared new analyst firms focused on IoT who also wanted to contribute their bit and at the same time make cash while this unsustainable situation lasts.

After reading numerous reports from various sources on this topic, talking to many IoT platform vendors and seeing endless product demos, I have decided to create my own methodology that includes a questionnaire of near 100 questions around different areas: technical, functional, business, strategy, and a scoring mechanism based on my knowledge and experience to make justified recommendations to my clients.

About Super Powers Methodology

But I also had defined an alternative Methodology based on Super Powers.

Super Heroes and Super Villains usually gain their abilities through several different sources, however these sources can be divided into four categories. The Super Powers methodology is based on these four categories of Power Sources.

  • Mind Powers – Powers with notable mental abilities. Companies like IBM Watson IoI or GE Predix are notable examples.
  • Body Powers – Powers that are gained from genetic mutation. Companies like Microsoft or Amazon mutate to IaaS / PaaS IoT platforms.
  • Spirit Powers  Powers gained over time through extensive investment, and are easily obtainable by companies without the risk of horrible mutation or disfigurement. PTC Thingworx, Software AG/Cumulocity or Cisco-Jasper are examples.
  • Artefact Powers   Powers gained abilities through ancient objects such as networks, or hardware. Incumbent Telcos M2M Platforms, Telco vendors like Huawei, Nokia or Ericsson, and Hardware vendors like Intel IoT platform, ARM Beetle or Samsung Artik are examples.

For each Power Source category, Super Powers are divided into different levels of power that depend on how strong, or unique, their abilities are.

  • Level 0 -  with useless, or minimal abilities.
  • Level 1 -  they are still particularly weak compared to the higher levels.
  • Level 2 -  have developed their powers to a certain point. About 75% of the platforms belong to this class,
  • Level 3 - Mostly are most commonly amateur heroes or sly villains.
  • Level 4 - Some of the most unique with a wider variety of powers.
  • Level 5 - these fellows are seasoned veterans of their abilities, capable of using them without even needing to concentrate.
  • Level 6 - Only a few beings are classified under this level, and their powers are that of being able to control multiple aspects of IoT reality.

Whatever the source of power was, I add Sandy Carter´s recommendation: If you want to become an Extreme Innovator you also need Super Intelligence, Super Speed and Super Synergy.  

About Super Heroes and Super Villains

Previously in “Internet of Things: Angels & Demons” and “Internet of Things – Kings and Servants” , I identified some IoT Platform companies as potential superheroes. What was certain is that we knew who the supervillains were. Governments, organizations and business giants that try to control us, manipulate us and frighten us with their economic, political and military powers.

Deciding which superhero can help you more or what superpower is more important for your business is an extremely important milestone in your IoT Strategy.

I've defined the six types/categories of superheroes / IoT Platforms:

a)The superhero whose power is a birthright like Amazon AWS IoT (Superman) or GE Predix (Magneto/Professor Xavier).

b)The superhero whose power is the result of power acquisitions like PTC Thingworx (The Flash) or Cisco Jasper-Parstream (Spiderman) or Autodesk Fusion Connect (FireStorm).

c)The superhero whose power is made possible by technology like Oracle IoT (Iron Man) or SAP Leonardo(Green Lantern). 

d)There is the superhero who doesn't have any superpowers but who is a superhero by extremely intensive training like Batman (Ayla Networks) or Black Widow (Exosite) or LogMeIn-Xively (Hawkeye)

e)The superhero who obtains his/her powers due to some supernatural event like Satya Nadella named new CEO for MSFT IoT Azure (Thor) or Telit DeviceWise (Dr. Manhattan) or Google acquisition of Nest (Hulk)

f)Finally, there is the superhero, usually a sentient android, who was created by a human like IBM Watson IoT (Vision) or a normal human playing with magic like Salesforce IoT Cloud Einstein (Dr Strange) or leader of a young team like Hitachi Data System(Most Excellent Superbat)

“Do you agree with my classification system for superheroes and superpowers?”

Although the number of superheroes and supervillains is enormous (more that the IoT Platforms Universe), it would take me a long time to assign each one of the IoT platform a single superhero or supervillain. Since I do not think many companies are willing to pay to know who represents them better, at least I have done a partial and fun exercise.

The Bottom Line 

If you are an IoT Platform vendor, you could be doing yourself some questions right now:

-          If I could be a Superhero what would it be?".

-          Worth to acquire a Super Power or reach an upper level to convince customers I am their Superhero?

And remember …

“With power comes responsibility; with great power comes great responsibility”

Although the number of superheroes and supervillains is enormous (more than the IoT Platforms Universe), it would take me a long time to assign each one of the IoT platform a single superhero or supervillain. Since I do not think many companies are willing to pay to know who represents them better, at least I have done a partial and fun exercise.

Thanks for your Likes and Shares.

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Tibbo announced the release 5.4 of AggreGate IoT Integration Platform.

We've achieved great results in optimizing AggreGate server performance, especially event and value update storage performance. From now on, a single server can process and persistently store up to a hundred thousand events/updates per second, which is almost equal to 10 billion events per day. Such performance figures don't even require any high-end server hardware.

A new chapter has been opened by this release, presenting AggreGate's graphical and textual programming languages inspired by IEC 61131-3 standard, also known as "SoftPLC". Millions of engineers are now able to use AggreGate as a process control logic development environment.

One innovative feature of AggreGate's automation languages is tight integration of runtime with the Tibbo Project System hardware. Your programmed logic can access and control all Tibbit modules of a Linux-based TPS board/box. Currently available languages are: Function Block Diagram (graphical), Structured Text (graphical), Sequential Function Chart (textual).

Widget capabilities are no longer limited by the standard set of components. Now it can be easily extended. New Widget Component SDK allows to implement custom visual components in Java and use them in AggreGate widgets. Extend AggreGate's wide component palette with UI controls best suited to your needs!

We continue making our UI interface clearer and more user-friendly. The next step is lightweight icons. We redesigned them to be up-to-date with modern flat paradigm. New color coding assists users to navigate over various available toolbar actions.

Other major improvements include:

  • Built-in timestamps and quality for data tables.
  • Component connectors that allow to visually link UI components with each other.
  • Secure and reliable Agent communications. Agent-Server communications now can be SSL-protected. When transferred data amount is critical, data compression can be enabled in parallel to encryption.
  • Granulation, a brand-new highly customizable data aggregation and consolidation tool. The granulation engine allows to combine datasets into compact representation that contains all important aspects of original information in virtually any form suitable for later processing. This allows to reduce memory and storage consumption along with boosting data processing performance.
  • Server remote upgrading. To reduce company's expenses, a remote AggreGate server upgrade operation is now supported. You can use our Unified Console application to connect to a remote server, upload a server upgrade bundle file and wait while the upgrade process is finished. That's it! All operations, including database backup, stopping server, upgrading and restarting will be performed at the server side automatically.

We are bringing our IT & Network Management solution (AggreGate Network Manager) to a new level by turning it into a full-fledged IT Service Management System. In this release, we introduce several essential instruments for that: Configuration Management Database (CMDB), metrics engine and topology-based root-cause analysis tools. Another ITSM functionality - IP address management module - is now available and you can use it out-of-the-box.

AggreGate 5.4 includes new device drivers: CoAP, MQTT, IEC 104, DLMS/COSEM, SMI-S.

You can get detailed information on the new 5.4 release, download and try the updated AggreGate IoT Platform on our website: http://aggregate.tibbo.com/news/release-54.html

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