What insights can be uncovered about your business in the connected era?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming how we live and work. Take vending machines, for instance. While traditional vending machines give customers anonymity and convenience, they don’t provide any meaningful customer interaction beyond delivering their order. Smart vending machines are embedded with sensors and connected to a network of other vending machines, smartphones and other wearable devices. They are capable of tracking, collecting and analysing user information to make intelligent decisions in real-time. For example, a smart vending machine could relay information back to the retailer about stock levels, purchasing patterns and individual customer profiles. By applying advanced analytics to this data, the retailer can redefine their product roadmap and sales and marketing strategy, provide personalized offers for customers; and ensure the machine is performing at an optimum level, all at the same time.
Smart assets therefore give industries more precise details about how a product is performing in the field and how customers are interacting with that product. But in the era of connection – when an estimated 20bn devices will be in play by 2020 – how can organizations make sense of increasing volumes of data to uncover new insights about how their business is performing?
Are we running out of data storage capacity?
According to recent reports, the amount of digital information generated by the world annually is expected to balloon by more than 10 times in the next decade, as businesses fill hard drives, USB drives and their own personal devices with thousands of data files and documents. On top of this, trying to uncover new insights into business performance requires data to be correlated from multiple sources, processed in real-time and then compared with another dataset to make sense of the information.
Technologies like SAP’s Cloud Platform are enabling businesses to do just this. It gives businesses an overview into how everything is operating in real-time to ensure they can make more accurate forecasts. The platform enables an IT department to build a series of IoT apps to monitor, process and analyze the data from various sources across the shop floor and point of sale, along with all its finance, CRM, ERP and HR data in real-time to take business decisions.
How does this work in the field?
Imagine a grounds technician who is responsible for measuring equipment performance in a manufacturing plant. Five years ago, they would have had to physically go to the plant, take measurements with an instrument, upload those figures to an app and put them all into the ERP system once connected to the internet, enabling the information to be stored in a back-end system. Today, sensors can be embedded into the equipment directly, meaning data can be captured immediately and put into the back-end system automatically. The field engineer can then monitor this “digital twin” of the equipment to create a real-time blueprint, and detect and report anomalies within the parameters that have been set.
Key considerations for businesses
While using SAP Cloud Platform provides businesses with new insights, there are a number of factors to consider before any app is deployed. First and foremost, security is one of the biggest challenges to keep in mind when connecting lots of different devices. The IoT opens up the business’ critical assets to new threats which must be defended against.
Secondly, Device and Information Management must be considered. While IoT sensors can be automatically embedded into new devices, adding them to legacy infrastructure – such as ageing train carriages – can be relatively complex and expensive to do. As a result, organizations are struggling to manage the vast number of IoT devices, connect existing machines to one another and apply advanced analytics to glean operational intelligence.
Finally, because there is so much data being generated on a constant basis, businesses must ensure they are able to extract meaningful information to help them forecast predictions on performance. However, with IoT solutions based on SAP Cloud Platform, organizations can easily respond to all these challenges, freeing up their time to focus on core innovation and growing their business.