The Internet of Things (IoT) is the enabler for new types of business model that will increase the bottom line for businesses and improve the range of services they can offer. Edge computing promises near-real-time insights and facilitates localised actions that are tuned to the needs of customers. In doing so, businesses can ensure they remain competitive in a rapidly changing world. Andy Penfold, Director of Offering Management at Adlink Technology, describes how digital experimentation with the IoT leads to innovation, and he also looks at options for creating a clearer path to innovative IoT.
Though the IoT is capable of delivering success, implementing a system effectively can be difficult and costly. Typically, a fully deployed IoT system requires significant upfront investment because of the large number of sensors and network gateways that need to be installed and commissioned before services can start running. The system must not just be functional but also deliver on key metrics such as security and reliability. With such stringent demands, the success rate for early adopters has been comparatively low. A 2016 study conducted by Cisco found the success rate for an IoT project was just 26 per cent.
Research by McKinsey found pilot projects frequently went no further: just 30 per cent of those surveyed were starting to scale to enterprise-wide deployment. The pilots themselves were often lengthy endeavours. Of those organisations surveyed, 84 per cent of companies were stuck in pilot mode for more than a year. For 28 per cent, the pilot was still running after two years.
Extracting value from pilots
However, pilot projects do generate important information for the organisation. According to McKinsey, 64 per cent of the decision-makers surveyed agreed they learned even from stalled or failed IoT initiatives and those experiences have helped accelerate their organisations' subsequent investment in IoT projects. Many of those who have been successful did not try to manage the projects alone: they engaged the IoT partner ecosystem at every stage of the implementation plan. Working with partners is a key factor in IoT success but there are many other contributors.
Continued success in business requires the balancing of a number of factors, some of which can often seem contradictory. Successful organisations want to be able to keep pursuing proven strategies. But to remain competitive, they have to embrace change and innovate to maintain market-leading positions. The IoT is now seen to be a leading candidate for advancing innovation. But, as with any innovation, working with the IoT involves risk. For every innovation that results in an improvement to the bottom line there are many ideas that fail to deliver. The key is to minimise the costs of failures but learn as much as possible from them to help drive the innovation that will deliver a successful deployment.
The spirit of experimentation
The path taken by inventors, such as Thomas Edison, demonstrates how innovation often results not from one bright idea but from the exploration of many different options. There are important lessons in each of them. A failed experiment is as important as one that is successful because it demonstrates what attributes the final implementation should avoid. This spirit of experimentation and invention is required in the new generation of computer-enabled systems that will drive the IoT and IIoT forward. It keeps the cost of failure down without hiding the benefits of what failures can teach us and, in doing so, maximises the return on investment when the final system is deployed.
Experimentation can answer the many questions that need to be tackled before any mass IoT deployment. But how can the concept be put into practice? What is required is a readymade platform that supports experimentation through plug-and-play substitution of components both at the hardware and software level. The platform needs to offer businesses a safe space that makes it possible to get results fast, whether they are successes or failures.
A platform that is offered as a subscription, such as the Adlink DXS IoT Digital Experiments as-a-Service, can provide all the relevant hardware, software and services required for a variety of projects and experiments that are run simultaneously in a manner that minimises risk for the user. It understands the many different protocols and data-access technologies that can form an IoT implementation and lets users connect disparate devices and computers using their native protocols and feed into an IoT backbone. The data flows into a common stream from which back-end services can pull insights and deliver real-time knowledge to users and customers with access to the experiment.
When implemented in a manner that satisfies stakeholders and takes account of the capabilities and limitations of individual technologies, the IoT can deliver cost savings and increased business value. A divide-and-conquer strategy that uses early experimentation to let implementers gain knowledge as quickly as possible provides a way to cut out many of the obstacles to success. Small-scale experiments enabled by a service that provides a wide variety of IoT technologies and devices that are known to work together streamline the learning process. In doing so, they make it much easier for organisations to move from the whiteboard stage to full deployment and not get stuck in development hell.
Adlink Technology has published a white paper that goes into more detail about this topic. To download it go to go.adlinktech.com/dxs-white-paper_lp.