Rapid development for an increasingly connected world
Speed and collaboration is at the heart of almost everything we do today. After all, everyone and everything is more connected than ever before.
Not only can we share data more rapidly thanks to apps developed specifically for today’s connected Internet of Things (IoT); we can also create those apps more rapidly thanks to incubator labs where departments are connected and share ideas.
Enabling novel use cases
The IoT is generating more and more data. When the robust cloud-native applications that make use of this data are connected, this creates an open microservices architecture that brings departments together at a technology level. Different departments can exchange information in real time – the speed gain is tremendous.
Gone is the old world where the people in the office using an ERP system, the people on the shop floor using a MES system and the R&D people all worked in their isolated environments. In those days, information exchange was slow, often using pieces of paper and manual processes.
When diverse departments are connected at a technology level, new use cases come to light – use cases that cross departmental boundaries to bring value for the entire business.
Rapid reactions minimize downtime
Take the Siemens ‘Manage My Machine’ app as an example. Previously, whenever there was a problem with a machine, it took engineers a long time to find out the reason. First, workers on the factory floor needed to gather the required information and write a note for the engineer. The engineer, in return, reviewed the note, decided what to do and then called the responsible department or supplier.
In the new world where people, things and systems are connected, machine sensors are able to automatically send information to an ERP system such as SAP. This might include, for instance, information on the threshold of certain vibrations, which indicate a machine outage within a known timeframe. SAP can use this information to automatically create a work order and promptly sends it to a supplier. Since the request is timely, the supplier is able to fix the machine before it has an impact on productivity.
Which use case?
With connectivity opening up so many new use cases, incubator labs provide an ideal environment for rapidly developing IoT-based applications based on them. Projects that would have taken months or even years can now be completed in weeks, days or sometimes even hours.
How? By building these applications on a robust platform with predefined use cases – whether its increasing operational excellence, improving uptime, growing revenue, creating new services or something completely new and different to the existing business.
When clients attend our Frankfurt incubator lab, the first thing we do is help them decide which use case to build an application around. After all, in an increasingly service-driven world, businesses want to increase transparency, move to a service-driven business model (from selling tires to selling kilometers traveled, for instance) and more.
We hold a workshop with them to explore the problem they’re trying to solve and draw out a theoretical solution based on one of more than 100 predefined use cases.
Bringing the use case to life
With the use case decided, we can build a visual mock-up of the application on a tablet or smartphone. This first mock-up doesn’t have a lot of technology behind it but looks and feels real so that you can play with it. The predefined use cases mean we can build it rapidly. MindSphere, which Siemens specifically designed as an open operating system for the IoT, provides a robust technical foundation, further accelerating the process.
During the next weeks, our teams build a technical prototype using a sprint-type of process that is not only highly interactive but also very fast. The technical prototype allows you to test the app early: you can see how it will be used and understand the value you can realize from it. As it evolves, you can choose to adopt it, to change it and even stop it at any time if it doesn’t make sense.
Tips for success
One of the first tips we give clients attending our incubator labs is ‘bring a multi-disciplinary team.' When you’re developing a use case that crosses departmental boundaries, bring someone from every department that the use case impacts. Encourage each and every one of them to share their expertise, their experiences and their requirements.
Our second tip is to come with an open mind, ready to think out of the box. We encourage creativity. We want you to share your ideas. Feel free to write on the walls and stick colored notes wherever you want. Our labs are designed to enhance your creativity and your openness to new ideas.
Our next piece of advice is to start small and start fast. After all, speed is king in today’s world. Start with use cases for collecting data and increasing transparency before thinking about use cases for enhancing specific KPIs in your factory.
Leading by example
We, in turn, act on our own advice. Our teams attending our labs are multi-disciplinary: market expertise sitting beside technical know-how. They too are encouraged to be open-minded, with technical gurus encouraging debate on what is possible and vertical experts bringing their knowledge of the market today and where it is heading to the discussion.
As the world becomes more connected, are you taking full advantage of the new use cases that are coming to light? Are you ready for a future built on the Internet of Things?