The IoT Can Improve Safety and Profitability of Inherently Dangerous Job Sites

You may remember I wrote several months ago about a collaboration between SAP and SK Solutions in Dubai (interesting factoid: Dubai is home to almost 25% of the world’s cranes [assume most of the rest nest at Sand Hill, LOL], and they are increasingly huge, and that makes them difficult to choreograph.

I’m returning to the subject today, with a slightly broader emphasis on how the IoT might manage a range of dangerous job sites, such as mining and off-shore oil rigs, allowing us to do now that we couldn’t do before, one of my IoT Essential Truths.

I’m driven in part by home-town preoccupation with Boston’s bid for the 2024 Olympics, and the inevitable questions that raises on the part of those still smarting from our totally-botched handling of the last big construction project in these parts, the infamous “Big Dig” tunnel and highway project.

I’m one of those incurable optimists who think that part of ensuring that the Olympics would have a positive “legacy” (another big pre-occupation in these parts) would be to transform the city and state into the leading example of large-scale Internet of Things implementation.

There are a couple of lessons from SAP and SK Solutions’ collaboration in Dubai that would be relevant here:

    • The system is real-time: the only way the Boston Olympic sites could be finished in time would be through maximizing efficiency every day. Think how hard that is with a major construction project: as with “for want of a nail the kingdom was lost,” the sensitive interdependence between every truck and subcontractor on the site — many of which might be too small to invest in automation themselves — is critical. If information about one sub being late isn’t shared, in real-time, with all the other players, the delays — and potential collisions — will only pile up. The system includes an auto-pilot that makes immediate adjustments to eliminate operator errors. By contrast, historical data that’s only analyzed after the fact won’t be helpful, because there’s no do-overs, no 2025 Olympics!
    • The data is shared: that’s another key IoT Essential Truth.  “Decision-makers using SK Solutions on a daily basis span the entire organization. Besides health and safety officers, people responsible for logistics, human resources, operations and maintenance are among the typical users.”  The more former information silos share the data, the more likely they are to find synergistic solutions.
    • The system is inclusive, both in terms of data collection and benefits: SK Solutions’ Founder and Inventor Séverin Kezeu, came up with his collision-avoidance software pre-IoT, but when the IoT became practical he partnered with SAP, Cisco, and Honeywell to integrate and slice and dice the data yielded by the sensors they installed on cranes and vehicles and other sources.  For example, the height of these cranes makes them vulnerable to sudden weather changes, so weather data such as wind speed and direction must be factored in, as well as the “machinery’s position, movement, weight, and inertia…. The information is delivered on dashboards and mobile devices, visualized with live 3-D images with customizable views. It’s also incredibly precise.”As a result, by using SAP’s HANA platform, a system developed to reduce construction accidents also makes predictive maintenance of the cranes and other equipment, and lets the construction companies monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as asset saturation, usage rates, and collisions avoided.  McKinsey reports that construction site efficiency could improve dramatically due to better coordination: “One study found that buffers built into construction project schedules allowed for unexpected delays resulting in 70 to 80 percent idle time at the worksite.Visibility alone can allow for shorter buffers to be built into the construction process.”

Several other great IoT solutions come to mind at the same time, both relating to dangerous industries. Off-shore oil rigs and mining were treated at length in the recent McKinsey omnibus IoT forecast, “The Internet of Things: Mapping the Value Beyond the Hype:”

  • off-shore rigs: “Much of the data collected by these sensors [30,000 on some rigs] today is used to monitor discrete machines or systems. Individual equipment manufacturers collect performance data from their own machines and the data can be used to schedule maintenance. Interoperability would significantly improve performance by combining sensor data from different machines and systems to provide decision makers with an integrated view of performance across an entire factory or oil rig. Our research shows that more than half of the potential issues that can be identified by predictive analysis in such environments require data from multiple IoT systems. Oil and gas experts interviewed for this research estimate that interoperability could improve the effectiveness of equipment maintenance in their industry by 100 to 200 percent.” (my emphasis). 
  • mining: “In one mining case study, using automated equipment in an underground mine increased productivity by 25 percent. A breakdown of underground mining activity indicates that teleremote hauling can increase active production time in mines by as much as nine hours every day by eliminating the need for shift changes of car operators and reducing the downtime for the blasting process. Another source of operating efficiency is the use of real-time data to manage IoT systems across different worksites, an example of the need for interoperability. In the most advanced implementations, dashboards optimized for smartphones are used to present output from sophisticated algorithms that perform complex, real-time optimizations. In one case study from the Canadian tar sands, advanced analytics raised daily production by 5 to 8 percent, by allowing managers to schedule and allocate staff and equipment more effectively. In another example, when Rio Tinto’s (one mine) crews are preparing a new site for blasting, they are collecting information on the geological formation where they are working. Operations managers can provide blasting crews with detailed information to calibrate their use of explosives better, allowing them to adjust for the characteristics of the ore in different parts of the pit.”
 In all of these cases, the safety and productivity problems — and solutions are intertwined.  As McKinsey puts it:
“Downtime, whether from repairs, breakdowns, or maintenance, can keep machinery out of use 40 percent of the time or more. The unique requirements of each job make it difficult to streamline work with simple, repeatable steps, which is how processes are optimized in other industries. Finally, worksite operations involve complex supply chains, which in mining and oil and gas often extend to remote and harsh locations.”
Could it be that the IoT will finally tame these most extreme work situations, and bring order, safety, and increased profitability?  I’m betting on it.

GE & IBM make it official: IoT is here & now & you ignore it at your own risk!

Pardon my absence while doing the annual IRS dance.

While I was preoccupied, GE and IBM put the last nail in the coffin of those who are waiting to launch IoT initiatives and revise their strategy until the Internet of Things is more ….. (supply your favorite dismissive wishy-washy adjective here).

It’s official: the IoT is here, substantive, and profitable.

Deal with it.

To wit:

The two blue-chips’ moves were decisive and unambiguous. If you aren’t following suit, you’re in trouble.

The companies accompanied these bold strategic moves with targeted ones that illustrate how they plan to transform their companies and services based on the IoT and related technologies such as 3-D printing and Big Data:

  • GE, which has become a leader in 3-D printing, announced its first FAA-approved 3-D jet engine part, housing a jet’s compressor inlet temperature sensor. Sensors and 3-D printing: a killer combination.
  • IBM, commercializing its gee-whiz Watson big data processing system, launched Watson Health in conjunction with Apple and Johnson & Johnson, calling it “our moonshot” in health care, hoping to transform the industry.  Chair Ginny Rometty said that:

“The Watson Health Cloud platform will ‘enable secure access to individualized insights and a more complete picture of the many factors that can affect people’s health,’ IBM says each person generates one million gigabytes of health-related data across his or her lifetime, the equivalent of more than 300 million books.”

There can no longer be any doubt that the Internet of Things is a here-and-now reality. What is your company doing to catch up to the leaders and share in the benefits?

 

Deloitte’s IoT “Information Value Loop”: critical attitudinal shift

Ever so often it’s good to step back from the day-to-day minutia of current Internet of Things projects, and get some perspective on the long-term prospects and challenges.

That’s what Deloitte did last December, when it held an “Internet of Things Grand Challenge Workshop,” with a focus on the all-important “forging the path to revenue generation.”

The attendees included two of my idols: John Seely Brown and John Hagel, of Deloitte’s “Center for the Edge” (love the pun in that title!).

The results were recently released, and bear close examination, especially the concept of how to foster what they call the “Information Value Loop”:

Deloitte IoT Information Value Loop

Deloitte IoT Information Value Loop

“The underlying asset that the IoT creates and exploits is information, yet we lack a well- developed, practical guide to understand how information creates value and how companies can effectively capture value. The ‘Information Value Loop’ describes how information creates value, how to increase that value, and how understanding the relevant technology is central to positioning an organization to capture value. The Information Value Loop is one way to begin making sense of the changes we face. The Loop consists of three interconnected elements: stages, value drivers, and technologies. Where the stages and value drivers are general principles defining if and how information creates value under any circumstances, it is the specifics of today’s technology that connect the Loop to the challenges and opportunities created by the IoT.”

This fits nicely with one of my IoT Esssential Truths,” that we need to turn linear information flows into cyclical ones to fully capitalize on the IoT.  No pussy-footin’ about this for these guys: “For information to create any value at all, it must pass through all the stages of the Loop. This is a binary outcome: should the flow of information be blocked completely at any stage, no value is created by that information.”

IMHO, this is also going to be one of the biggest challenges of the IoT for management: in the days when it was sooo difficult to gather and disseminate information, it made sense for those in the C-suite to control it, and parcel out what they felt was relevant, to whom and when they felt it was relevant. More often than not, the flow was linear and hierarchical, with one information silo in the company handing on the results to the next after they’d processed it. That didn’t allow any of the critical advantages the IoT brings, of allowing everyone who needs it to share real-time data instantly.  But saying we need to change those information management practices is one thing: actually having senior management give up their gatekeeper functions is another, and shouldn’t be understated as a challenge.

So here are some of the other key points in the conference proceedings:

  • In line with the multi-step strategy I outlined in Managing the Internet of Things Revolution, they concluded that incremental improvements to existing processes and products are important, but will only take you so far, at which point radical innovation will be crucial: “At first blush, the early IoT emphasis on sustaining innovation seems reasonable. Performance and cost improvement are seldom absent from the priorities of stakeholders; they are relatively easy to measure and their impact is likely more immediate than any investment that is truly disruptive. Put simply, the business case for an IoT application that focuses on operational efficiencies is relatively easy to make. Many decision makers are hard-wired to prefer the path of less resistance and, for many, truly innovative IoT applications seem too far-flung and abstract to risk pursuing. Still, organizations cannot innovate from the cost side forever.”
  • Melding the public and private, “Cities have inherent societal challenges in place to serve as natural incubators of IoT solutions.” Yeah!
  • As in everything else, those contrarian Millennials (who aren’t so hung up on buying stuff and often prefer to just use it)  are likely to save us when it comes to the IoT:  “From an innovation perspective … some of the new technologies are first marketed at the consumers. Thus, many believe that near-term innovation in IoT applications will come out of the consumer sector – spurred by the emergence of the tech-savvy Millennial consumers as a driving economic force.”
  • As I’ve written before, while some customers will still prefer to buy products outright, the IoT will probably bring a shift from selling products to marketing services based on those products, creating new revenue streams and long-term relationships with customers: “As IoT makes successful forays into the world of consumer and industrial products, it may radically change the producer—buyer transactional model from one based on capital expenditure to one based on operating expenditure. Specifically, in a widely adopted IoT world, buyers may be more apt to purchase product service outcomes on some kind of “per unit” basis, rather than the product itself and in so doing, render the physical product as something more of an afterthought. The manufacturer would then gradually transform into a service provider, operating on a complete awareness of each product’s need for replenishment, repair, replacement, etc.”

    Or, a hybrid model may emerge: “What may ultimately happen in a relatively connected product world is that many may accept the notion of the smartly connected product, but in a limited way. Such people will want to own the smartly connected product outright, but will also accept the idea of sharing the usage data to the limited extent that the sellers use such data in relatively benign ways, such as providing advice on more efficient usage, etc. The outcome here will also rely upon a long term total cost of ownership (TCO) perspective. With any fundamental purchasing model changes (as is taking place in owned vs. cloud resources in the network / IT world), not all suppliers will be able to reap additional economic benefit under the service model. Buyers will eventually recognize the increase in TCO and revert back to the more economical business model if the economic rents are too high.”

  • It’s likely that those players in the IoT ecosystem who create value-added data interpretation will be the most valuable and profitable: “…are certain building blocks of the IoT network “more equal” than others?

    “Some have argued that the holy grail of the IoT value loop resides in the data and that those in the IoT ecosystem who aggregate and transform massive amounts of raw data into commercially useful intelligence capture the real value in the IoT environment. This notion holds that commercially useful data provide insights that drive action and ultimately represent the reason that the end user pursues a smart solution in the first place. Put another way, the end customer is more apt to pay for a more comprehensive treatment of raw data than for a better sensor. Indeed, some even believe that as time passes, the gap in relative value captured by those who curate and analyze the data and the rest of the IoT ecosystem will only widen and that, on a long-term basis, players within the “non-data” part of the IoT ecosystem will need to develop some data analytics capabilities simply to differentiate themselves as something more than commodity providers. Of course, some think that the emphasis on data is overblown and argue that where the real value in the IoT ecosystem is captured depends on application. Time will tell of course. But there can be little doubt that the collection and enhancement of data is highly coveted, and analytics and the ability to make use of the vast quantities of information that is captured will serve as critical elements to virtually any IoT solution.”

I urge you to download and closely analyze the entire report. It’s one of the most thoughtful and visionary pieces of IoT theory I’ve seen (no doubt because of its roundtable origins: in keeping with the above-mentioned need for cyclical information flow for the IoT [and, IMHO, creativity in general], the more insights you can bring together on a real-time basis, the richer the outcome. Bravo!

 

Outside the (Shoe) Box Internet of Things Thinking!

Posted on 30th March 2015 in design, Internet of Things, retail, strategy, wearables

Could someone please forward this to Carrie Bradshaw? I don’t think she reads this blog, but she’d definitely be interested!

I’ve got to confess that I’m usually oblivious to the world of fashion — or appalled by it (there’s a current ad by Gucci in one of my wife’s magazines that frankly scares me: not sure which looks more weird: the emaciated, heavily-made-up model or the dress!), but this one caught my eye as a way women can have a more versatile wardrobe that takes up less space and saves them money!  Neat, huh?

Equally important, it may be the precursor of a wide range of mass-customized Internet of Things devices of all types that are more personal, create new revenue streams, and provide valuable feedback to the manufacturer on customer tastes.

Ishuu, a Lithuanian startup, is creating a new line of très stylish women’s shoes, Volvorii, that include a strip of e-ink material (similar to a Kindle screen) that can be customized by the owner simply by opening an app on her phone! The requisite electronics are housed in the heels.

As of this writing, the Volvorii Indegogo campaign has raised $34,000 of its $50,000 target, with 14 days to go. If I didn’t send every spare dollar to Loyola University – Maryland for my son’s tuition, I think I’d drop a few on this one: it really intrigues me!

If Ishuu is smart, I’d suggest that they throw open the API for the shoes, and allow bright young fashion design students to submit new designs for the insert.

As for those IoT-based products that are more personal, create new revenue streams, and provide valuable feedback to the manufacturer on customer tastes, here are a few more exciting examples to get you noodling about how you might redesign your own products to capitalize on this potential:

What I love about this as a consumer is that we will no longer have to make difficult binary choices between products: instead of either/or, it will be this/and this (in the case of the Watch and these shoes, I love that there will be so many choices that you’ll be able to change your choice on the fly depending on your mood or other factors.  I’m going to choose toe-tapping Mickey when I’m with my grandchildren, the Utility to keep track of biz during the day, and the Simple for more dignified evening wear.

These fall into my What Can You Do Now That You Couldn’t Do Before category. It’s going to take us a while to ditch our old, more limited mindsets, but the rest will be better for everyone.

The Internet of Things’ Essential Truths

I’ve been writing about what I call the Internet of Things’ “Essential Truths” for three years now, and decided the time was long overview to codify them and present them in a single post to make them easy to refer to.

As I’ve said, the IoT really will bring about a total paradigm shift, because, for the the first time, it will be possible for everyone who needs it to share real-time information instantly. That really does change everything, obliterating the “Collective Blindness” that has hampered both daily operations and long-term strategy in the past. As a result, we must rethink a wide range of management shibboleths (OK, OK, that was gratuitous, but I’ve always wanted to use the word, and it seemed relevant here, LOL):

  1. First, we must share data. Tesla leads the way with its patent sharing. In the past, proprietary knowledge led to wealth: your win was my loss. Now, we must automatically ask “who else can use this information?” and, even in the case of competitors, “can we mutually profit from sharing this information?” Closed systems and proprietary standards are the biggest obstacle to the IoT.
  2. Second, we must use the Internet of Things to empower workers. With the IoT, it is technically possible for everyone who could do their job better because of access to real-time information to share it instantly, so management must begin with a new premise: information should be shared with the entire workforce. Limiting access must be justified.
  3. Third, we must close the loop. We must redesign our data management processes to capitalize on new information, creating continuous feedback loops.
  4. Fourth, we must rethink products’ roles. Rolls-Royce jet engines feed back a constant stream of real-time data on their operations. Real-time field data lets companies have a sustained dialogue with products and their customers, increasingly allowing them to market products as services, with benefits including new revenue streams.
  5. Fifth, we must develop new skills to listen to products and understand their signals. IBM scientists and medical experts jointly analyzed data from sick preemies’ bassinettes & realized they could diagnose infections a day before there was any visible sign. It’s not enough to have vast data streams: we need to understand them.
  6. Sixth, we must democratize innovation. The wildly-popular IFTTT web site allows anyone to create new “recipes” to exploit unforeseen aspects of IoT products – and doesn’t require any tech skills to use. By sharing IoT data, we empower everyone who has access to develop new ways to capitalize on that data, speading the IoT’s development.
  7. Seventh, and perhaps most important, we must take privacy and security seriously. What responsible parent would put an IoT baby monitor in their baby’s room after the highly-publicized incident when a hacker exploited the manufacturer’s disregard for privacy and spewed a string of obscenities at the baby? Unless everyone in the field takes privacy and security seriously, the public may lose faith in the IoT.

There you have ’em: my best analysis of how the Internet of Things will require a revolution not just in technology, but also management strategy and practices. What do you think?

FTC report provides good checklist to design in IoT security and privacy

FTC report on IoT

FTC report on IoT

SEC Chair Edith Ramirez has been pretty clear that the FTC plans to look closely at the IoT and takes IoT security and privacy seriously: most famously by fining IoT marketer TrendNet for non-existent security with its nanny cam.

Companies that want to avoid such actions — and avoid undermining fragile public trust in their products and the IoT as a whole — would do well to clip and refer to this checklist that I’ve prepared based on the recent FTC Report, Privacy and Security in a Connected World, compiled based on a workshop they held in 2013, and highlighting best practices that were shared at the workshop.

  1. Most important, “companies should build security into their devices at the outset, rather than as an afterthought.” I’ve referred before to the bright young things at the Wearables + Things conference who used their startup status as an excuse for deferring security and privacy until a later date. WRONG: both must be a priority from Day One.

  2. Conduct a privacy or security risk assessment during design phase.

  3. Minimize the data you collect and retain.  This is a tough one, because there’s always that chance that some retained data may be mashed up with some other data in future, yielding a dazzling insight that could help company and customer alike, BUT the more data just floating out there in “data lake” the more chance it will be misused.

  4. Test your security measures before launching your products. … then test them again…

  5. “..train all employees about good security, and ensure that security issues are addressed at the appropriate level of responsibility within the organization.” This one is sooo important and so often overlooked: how many times have we found that someone far down the corporate ladder has been at fault in a data breach because s/he wasn’t adequately trained and/or empowered?  Privacy and security are everyone’s job.

  6. “.. retain service providers that are capable of maintaining reasonable security and provide reasonable oversight for these service providers.”

  7. ‘… when companies identify significant risks within their systems, they should implement a defense-in -depth approach, in which they consider implementing security measures at several levels.”

  8. “… consider implementing reasonable access control measures to limit the ability of an unauthorized person to access a consumer’s device, data, or even the consumer’s network.” Don’t forget: with the Target data breach, the bad guys got access to the corporate data through a local HVAC dealer. Everything’s linked — for better or worse!

  9. “.. companies should continue to monitor products throughout the life cycle and, to the extent feasible, patch known vulnerabilities.”  Privacy and security are moving targets, and require constant vigilance.

  10. Avoid enabling unauthorized access and misuse of personal information.

  11. Don’t facilitate attacks on other systems. The very strength of the IoT in creating linkages and synergies between various data sources can also allow backdoor attacks if one source has poor security.

  12. Don’t create risks to personal safety. If you doubt that’s an issue, look at Ed Markey’s recent report on connected car safety.

  13. Avoid creating a situation where companies might use this data to make credit, insurance, and employment decisions.  That’s the downside of cool tools like Progressive’s “Snapshot,” which can save us safe drivers on premiums: the same data on your actual driving behavior might some day be used become compulsory, and might be used to deny you coverage or increase your premium).

  14. Realize that FTC Fair Information Practice Principles will be extended to IoT. These “FIPPs, ” including “notice, choice, access, accuracy, data minimization, security, and accountability,” have been around for a long time, so it’s understandable the FTC will apply them to the IoT.  Most important ones?  Security, data minimization, notice, and choice.

Not all of these issues will apply to all companies, but it’s better to keep all of them in mind, because your situation may change. I hope you’ll share these guidelines with your entire workforce: they’re all part of the solution — or the problem.

IBM picks for IoT trends to watch this year emphasize privacy & security

Last month Bill Chamberlin, the principal analyst for Emerging Tech Trends and Horizon Watch Community Leader for IBM Market Development (hmmm, must have an oversized biz card..) published a list of 20 IoT trends to watch this year that I think provide a pretty good checklist for evaluating what promises to be an important period in which the IoT becomes more mainstream.

It’s interesting to me, especially in light of my recent focus on the topics (and I’ll blog on the recent FTC report on the issue in several days), that he put privacy and security number one on the list, commenting that “Trust and authentication become critical across all elements of the IoT, including devices, the networks, the cloud and software apps.” Amen.

Most of the rest of the list was no surprise, with standards, hardware, software, and edge analytics rounding out the top five (even though it hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, I agree edge analytics are going to be crucial as the volume of sensor data increases dramatically: why pass along the vast majority of data, that is probably redundant, to the cloud, vs. just what’s a deviation from the norm and probably more important?).

Two dealing with sensors did strike my eye:

9.  Sensor fusion: Combining data from different sources can improve accuracy. Data from two sensors is better than data from one. Data from lots of sensors is even better.

10.  Sensor hubs: Developers will increasingly experiment with sensor hubs for IoT devices, which will be used to offload tasks from the application processor, cutting down on power consumption and improving battery life in the devices”

Both make a lot of sense.

One was particularly noteworthy in light of my last post, about the Gartner survey showing most companies were ill-prepared to plan and launch IoT strategies: “14.  Chief IoT Officer: Expect more senior level execs to be put in place to build the enterprise-wide IoT strategy.” Couldn’t agree more that this is vital!

Check out the whole list: I think you’ll find it helpful in tracking this year’s major IoT developments.

Gartner study confirms senior managers don’t understand IoT

Posted on 21st February 2015 in Internet of Things, M2M, management, manufacturing, marketing, strategy

The “Managing the Internet of Things Revolution” e-guide I wrote for SAP was aimed at C-level executives. Even though it’s proven popular enough that the company is translating it into several languages, it appears we need to redouble our efforts to Managing_the_Internet_of_Things_Revolutionbuild IoT awareness among executives.

I say that because Gartner has just come out with a survey confirming my suspicions: even though a lot of companies now think the IoT will have a major effect on them, they’re clueless about how to manage it and most have yet to launch major IoT initiatives.

In fact, “many survey respondents felt that the senior levels of their organizations don’t yet have a good understanding of the potential impact of the IoT.” (my emphasis)

 

That’s despite the fact that a key conclusion of my guide was that (even though the IoT is a long way from full maturity) companies can and should begin their IoT strategies and implementation now, because they can already achieve significant savings in operating costs, improve marketing, and create new revenue streams with the current early stage sensors and analytical tools. Getting started will also build their confidence and familiarity with IoT tools and strategy before they begin more dramatic transformational strategies.

Consider these findings from the survey of 463 business and IT leaders:

  • 40% of companies think the IoT will at least bring new short-term revenue and cost reduction opportunities in the next three years — or perhaps even transform them. More than 60% think that will be true over 5 years or more.
  • Fewer than 25% said their company had “established clear business leadership for the IoT,” — even among the companies predicting a significant  – this includes those who said they expect the IoT to have a significant or transformational impact, says Gartner (however, 35% of them came from this group).
  • Yet, few have delegated specific responsibility for IoT strategy and management: “… less than one-quarter of survey respondents has established clear business leadership for the IoT, either in the form of a single organizational unit owning the issue or multiple business units taking ownership of separate IoT efforts.”
  • “attitudes toward the IoT vary widely by industry. For example, board of directors’ understanding of the IoT was rated as particularly weak in government, education, banking and insurance, whereas the communications and services industries scored above-average ratings for senior executive understanding of the IoT.”

Gartner concluded most companies have yet to really create IoT strategies:

“‘The survey confirmed that the IoT is very immature, and many organizations have only just started experimenting with it,’ said Nick Jones, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. ‘Only a small minority have deployed solutions in a production environment. However, the falling costs of networking and processing mean that there are few economic inhibitors to adding sensing and communications to products costing as little as a few tens of dollars. The real challenge of the IoT is less in making products ‘smart’ and more in understanding the business opportunities enabled by smart products and new ecosystems.’ However, a lack of clear business or technical leadership is holding back investment in the technology.” (my emphasis)

In line with my current preoccupation, privacy and security, the survey did show companies are concerned with both issues, as well as with finding talented new staff who understand the IoT and how to benefit from it. According to Steve Kleyhans, Gartner’s research vp:

 “While a single leader for the IoT is not essential, leadership and vision are important, even in the form of several leaders from different business units. We expect that over the next three years, more organizations will establish clear leadership, and more will recognize the value of some form of an IoT center of excellence because of the need to master a wide range of new technologies and skills.”

If you haven’t launched any IoT projects or begun to create a strategy, the writing’s on the wall: get going!


Carpe diem: I take this survey as an omen that there’s a desperate need for When Things Can Talk: profiting from the Internet of Things revolution,” my proposed full-length book on IoT corporate strategy. Let me know if you can suggest a possible publisher!

Management Challenge: Lifeguards in the IoT Data Lake

In their Harvard Business Review November cover story, How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Competition, PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann and Professor Michael Porter make a critical strategic point about the Internet of Things that’s obscured by just focusing on IoT technology: “…What makes smart, connected products fundamentally different is not the internet, but the changing nature of the “things.”

In the past, “things” were largely inscrutable. We couldn’t peer inside massive assembly line machinery or inside cars once they left the factory, forcing companies to base much of both strategy and daily operations on inferences about these things and their behavior from limited data (data which was also often gathered only after the fact).

Now that lack of information is being removed. The Internet of Things creates two unprecedented opportunities regarding data about things:

  • data will be available instantly, as it is generated by the things
  • it can also be shared instantly by everyone who needs it.

This real-time knowledge of things presents both real opportunities and significant management challenges.

Each opportunity carries with it the challenge of crafting new policies on how to manage access to the vast new amounts of data and the forms in which it can be accessed.

For example: with the Internet of Things we will be able to bring about optimal manufacturing efficiency as well as unprecedented integration of supply chains and distribution networks. Why? Because we will now be able to “see” inside assembly line machinery, and the various parts of the assembly line will be able to automatically regulate each other without human intervention (M2M) to optimize each other’s efficiency, and/or workers will be able to fine-tune their operation based on this data.

Equally important, because of the second new opportunity, the exact same assembly line data can also be shared in real time with supply chain and distribution network partners. Each of them can use the data to trigger their own processes to optimize their efficiency and integration with the factory and its production schedule.

But that possibility also creates a challenge for management.

When data was hard to get, limited in scope, and largely gathered historically rather than in the moment, what data was available flowed in a linear, top-down fashion. Senior management had first access, then they passed on to individual departments only what they decided was relevant. Departments had no chance to simultaneously examine the raw data and have round-table discussions of its significance and improve decision-making. Everything was sequential. Relevant real-time data that they could use to do their jobs better almost never reached workers on the factory floor.

That all potentially changes with the IoT – but will it, or will the old tight control of data remain?

Managers must learn to ask a new question that’s so contrary to old top-down control of information: who else can use this data?

To answer that question they will have to consider the concept of a “data lake” created by the IoT.

“In broad terms, data lakes are marketed as enterprise wide data management platforms for analyzing disparate sources of data in its native format,” Nick Heudecker, research director at Gartner, says. “The idea is simple: instead of placing data in a purpose-built data store, you move it into a data lake in its original format. This eliminates the upfront costs of data ingestion, like transformation. Once data is placed into the lake, it’s available for analysis by everyone in the organization.”

Essentially, data that has been collected and stored in a data lake repository remains in the state it was gathered and is available to anyone, versus being structured, tagged with metadata, and having limited access.

That is a critical distinction and can make the data far more valuable, because the volume and variety will allow more cross-fertilization and serendipitous discovery.

At the same time, it’s also possible to “drown” in so much data, so C-level management must create new, deft policies – to serve as lifeguards, as it were. They must govern data lake access if we are to, on one hand, avoid drowning due to the sheer volume of data, and, on the other, to capitalize on its full value:

  • Senior management must resist the temptation to analyze the data first and then pass on only what they deem of value. They too will have a crack at the analysis, but the value of real-time data is getting it when it can still be acted on in the moment, rather than just in historical analyses (BTW, that’s not to say historical perspective won’t have value going forward: it will still provide valuable perspective).
  • There will need to be limits to data access, but they must be commonsense ones. For example, production line workers won’t need access to marketing data, just real-time data from the factory floor.
  • Perhaps most important, access shouldn’t be limited based on pre-conceptions of what might be relevant to a given function or department. For example, a prototype vending machine uses Near Field Communication to learn customers’ preferences over time, then offers them special deals based on those choices. However, by thinking inclusively about data from the machine, rather than just limiting access to the marketing department, the company shared the real-time information with its distribution network, so trucks were automatically rerouted to resupply machines that were running low due to factors such as summer heat.
  • Similarly, they will have to relax arbitrary boundaries between departments to encourage mutually-beneficial collaboration. When multiple departments not only share but also get to discuss the same data set, undoubtedly synergies will emerge among them (such as the vending machine ones) that no one department could have discovered on its own.
  • They will need to challenge their analytics software suppliers to create new software and dashboards specifically designed to make such a wide range of data easily digested and actionable.

Make no mistake about it: the simple creation of vast data lakes won’t automatically cure companies’ varied problems. But C-level managers who realize that if they are willing to give up control over data flow, real-time sharing of real-time data can create possibilities that were impossible to visualize in the past, will make data lakes safe, navigable – and profitable.

Good Checklist for Creating #IoT Strategy

Still not ready to tackle an analysis of the November Harvard Business Review cover story, by PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann and Professor Michael Porter, on How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Competition, but I did want to do a shout-out to a companion piece, Digital Ubiquity: How Connections, Sensors, and Data Are Revolutionizing Business, by two HBS profs, Marco Iansiti and Karim R. Lakhani.

In particular, I wanted to suggest that you use the last section of the paper, “Approaching Digital Ubiquity,” as a checklist of priorities to create your own IoT strategy (I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention my “Managing the Internet of Things Revolution” i-guide and this blog’s “Essential Truths” as references as well..).

Here are their points, and my reflections on them:

  1. Apply the digital lens to existing products and services.
    This is a profound transformation, because we’ve become so accustomed to working around the gaps in our knowledge that were the reality in an analog world.As Iasanti and Lakhani say, you now need to ask:
    “What cumbersome processes in your business or industry are amenable to instrumentation and connectivity?
    Which ones are most challenging to you or your customers?”
  2. Connect your existing assets across companies.
    We “get” competition, but collaboration, especially with competitors, is a little less instinctive.

    “If you work in a traditional analog setting, examine your assets for new opportunities and look at other industries and the start-up world for new synergies. Your customer connections are especially valuable, as are your knowledge of customers’ needs and the capabilities you built to meet knowledge of customers’ needs and the capabilities you built to meet them. Nest is connecting with public utilities to share data and optimize overall energy usage. If you work in a start-up, don’t just focus on driving the obsolescence of established companies. Look at how you can connect with and enhance their value and extract some of it for yourself.knowledge of customers’ needs and the capabilities you built to meet them. Nest is connecting with public utilities to share data and optimize overall energy usage. [my note: this is a great example of thinking expansively: even though your product is installed in individual homes, if data can be aggregated from many homes, it can be of real value on a macro scale as well. The smart grid is a great example of bringing all components of energy production, distribution, and use together into an integrated system.]  If you work in a start-up, don’t just focus on driving the obsolescence of established companies. Look at how you can connect with and enhance their value and extract some of it for yourself.”

  3. Examine new modes of value creation.
    Just because you make tangible products doesn’t mean that you’re limited to just selling those products to make money in the future. You’ll be able to make money by selling customers actionable data that will allow them to improve productivity and reduce maintenance. Perhaps you’ll stop selling altogether, and make money instead by making your products the cornerstone of profitable services.

    Begin to ask:
    “What new data could you accumulate, and where could you derive value from new analytics?”
    “How could the data you generate enable old and new customers to add value?”

  4. Consider new value-capture modes.
    “Could you do a better job of tracking the actual value your business creates for others?”
    “Could you do a better job of monetizing that value, through either value-based pricing or outcomes-based models?”
  5. Use software to extend the boundaries of what you do.
    You will still make products, as in the past, and that gives you a tangible basis for the future. But you’ll need a digital component as well.

    “Digital transformation does not mean that your company will only sell software, but it will shift the capability base so that expertise in software development becomes increasingly important. And it won’t render all traditional skills obsolete. Your existing capabilities and customer relationships are the foundations for new opportunities. Invest in software-related skills that complement what you have, but make sure you retain those critical foundations. Don’t jettison your mechanical engineering wizards—couple them with some bright software developers so that you can do a better job of creating and extracting value.”

    What do you think?  Any more questions you’d add? Let me know!