The Internet of Things (IoT) has become a reality of our times, and is playing an ever increasing role in both our personal lives and our work activities. IoT is a name used to describe the combination of network-enabled devices, excluding traditional computers like laptops and servers. The types of network connections that form part of IoT can include Wi-Fi connections, Bluetooth connections, and near-field communication (NFC). The IoT devices that have already been popularised are those as “smart” appliances, fridges, a/cs, cleaning robots, home security systems, computer peripherals, smart home services, etc.
There is a significant motivation for business to come to terms with IoT and integrate this in its strategies and operations. Early implementations have already shown that use of smart devices can provide a source of competitive advantage to a firm as it can use the IoT solution to provide a more customer-centric experience, providing added scope for customer personalisation of the product or service. We have seen the radical manner in which RFID technology has transformed the logistics sector by building in IoT solutions to the tracking of data related to the transport of goods and services and the conditions of transport, be they temperature control, motion control etc. We have seen the introduction of IoT technologies in warehouse inventory management systems allowing for an increased pro-activity in the inventory management systems. IoT solutions can be particularly effective in improving after-sales service to customers allowing firms to better improve maintenance and support through on site appliance diagnostics. IoT connectivity can assist companies in marketing their produicts and services more effectively to their customers. Tracking a consumer’s location within a geographic area, or within a building, allows retailers to send customised notifications regarding that relate the particular customers preferences and prior purchasing patterns.
One of the main challenges related to the growing use of IoT is the manner in which personal data is captured, stored and utilised. The current GDPR provisions provide a strong framework to protect the privacy rights of the consumer and many IoT privacy concerns have yet to be addressed. The technology continues to advance and in many ways the regulatory environment has not allowed for such developments. This creates various situations in which there are potential regulatory risks facing companies that seek to be more innovative in their approach to leveraging IoT technologies.
“An IoT application is part of an ecosystem of hardware, software and services that turn data into actionable information”1. In a recent virtual roundtable organised by Industry Week, experts shared their insights on the benefits of working with the IoT ecosystem, the steps companies can take to get started on their IoT initiatives. They contend that no single organisation or technology can independently provide all the essential building blocks that are required for the development and implementation of an IoT solution. This forces customers to experience the risks, costs, and delays that are inevitable when integrating different technologies in hardware, software and communication services. This calls for a planned approach to such integrations to allow for the effective development and deployment of IoT applications within a company’s growth strategies and operations.
The experts defined the three layers of the IoT ecosystem as being the Data collection layer, the networking and security layer and the analytics layer. This division of activities facilities specialisation of applications and services within each layer, built so as to allow integration with other systems in the different layers. In this way, in the data collection layer the focus is on the design, development and deployment of sensors and or controllers that serve as the primary data collection points gathering all information related to activity at hand. The collection of data needs to be secured to ensure that there is no unauthorised capture of data collected by any rogue systems or devices. The sensors and controllers can be bundled and configured in many different ways allowing them to be customised for integration into various applications. The networking and security layer is the physical network that connects to the data collection devices to aggregate and transmit data. Needless to say, the transfer of the data needs to be encrypted to prevent interception, capture and access during the its transmission. The analytics layer serves as the nodes through which the aggregated data is processed to allow for outcomes that provide useful information which can be used in the decision making processes.
The same report identifies a practical approach to organisations that seek to make greater use of IoT and integrate this both in their strategies for growth and subsequently in their day-to-day operations. This four step approach is based on the following:-
- Assemble a multifunctional team – Include representatives from all internal stakeholders in order to understand all of the challenges and requirements.
- Make security a priority – Think about all the layers that require security, including the assets that are being connected, the data, the applications and the people managing the devices.
- Work with a platform provider – The provider should have ecosystem partners with market-ready solutions that are adaptable to your specific environment.
- Start with individual case studies – Test the process and find out what your capabilities are before extending it to other areas.
IoT cannot be regarded as a simple plug-in to an organisation’s current operations. It requires a strategy for the development and integration within the overall service or product mix. It then requires a careful-dovetailing to ensure that its implementation within current practices provides added value and does not create any new weaknesses in terms of cybersecurity, or legal and regulatory compliance.
eBS has developed a strong Agile Project Management expertise over the past five years of its implementation within the company. It is able to offer such expertise to assist clients in the exploration and planning for the design, development and implementation of IoT solutions within its operations. eBS is able to take on the responsibilities of project leader within such assignments. On the basis of its technical and operations experience, eBS can co-ordinate and dove-tail the efforts to the different multi-disciplinary team of contributors to the development and effective implementation of the required IoT ecosystem and the relevant IoT solutions.
1 The IoT Ecosystem – Driving success Through the Power of collaboration, Industry Week