REIMAGINING THE ENTERPRISE | A ZDNet Multiplexer Blog What's this?

Cloud and the IoT in practice

How to exploit cloud services to make use of the IOT

Let's be honest: the IoT is still a new market involving new technologies, and standards that apply across the whole of the IoT space are rare. This is to be expected for new technologies; as ZDNet's report, Harnessing IoT in the Enterprise, points out: "In many areas of the IoT, there are undoubtedly shakeouts and consolidations to come in the standards arena--yet another thing for hard-pressed CIOs to keep an eye on."[1]

So how do you make use of the IoT, and where do you start?

Practical IoT

Before starting an IoT project, you will need to put few things in place. These include an inter-disciplinary IT organisation capable of managing the devices and data, systems for ensuring that issues such as integration, compliance and security are top of mind - maybe using a sandbox approach - and ensuring that your infrastructure can handle that data, unless of course you plan to use a cloud infrastructure.

Organisational buy-in will be vital, which in turn means a solid business case needs to be established, as will methodologies for measuring the ROI.

There will always be some industry sectors who tend to pick new technologies and run with them. When it comes to the IoT, however, industries often perceived as more conservative in their approaches are leading the IoT revolution.

IoT in action

For manufacturing, devices that return information about the real world are but an evolution of current processes. The transport industry benefits hugely from sensor-derived data to enable predictive maintenance, more efficient logistics, and reduced fuel consumption. Energy companies have invested heavily in the technology, from smart meters - with no batteries required - to sensors on remote pipes and gauges. "The loss of revenue from just a few minutes of an oil pump breaking down is huge, so it's worth installing IoT systems," says William Webb, an IEEE fellow and CEO of the non-profit Weightless SIG[2].

Healthcare is a growing industry which is benefiting from the ability to monitor remote devices, including those installed inside patients, and the use of IoT devices in the home is on the rise.

How the cloud can help

Thinking about how to build your own team of IoT experts along with buying and configuring the infrastructure required to support it, in addition to the inescapable issues mentioned above is probably enough to give any CIO conniptions.

Not only are new technologies always expensive, the right skill sets tend to be rare, so that's a bigger challenge. Instead, leaning on your systems integrator who will be able to tailor a solution using a cloud-based solution makes a huge amount of sense, at least initially.

Cloud providers are wrapping their infrastructure with new solutions to take advantage of the IoT. For example, one leading large provider offers a suite that delivers predictive maintenance which allows you to anticipate equipment failures and systematically prevent them. It also offers IoT-driven remote monitoring, which involves collecting data from assets, and using that data to trigger automatic alerts and actions, such as remote diagnostics, maintenance requests, and other operational processes.

The key advantage of such services is that manual, time-intensive procedures can now be dynamic, rapid, and automated. Assets located nearly anywhere can be monitored from afar using live data from smart sensors and devices. This in turn delivers better visibility into operational status, allowing you to quickly and automatically respond to current conditions.

In a nutshell

While standards remain elusive until the IT industry gets around to developing them - usually when IT manufacturers decide a standard is required in order to expand the market and increase revenues - this should not hinder your ability to assemble a coherent IoT infrastructure that provides a solid ROI to the business. Integrators and cloud providers are already delivering working solutions, so why not make use of them?

[1] ZDNet: Harnessing IoT in the Enterprise.

[2] ibid.