The Internet of Things (IoT) solutions require data integration capabilities to help business leaders solve real problems. Ecosystm research finds that the problem is that more than half of all organisations are finding integration a key challenge – right behind security (Figure 1). So, chances are, you are facing similar challenges.
This should not be taken as a criticism of IoT; just a wake-up call for all those seeking to implement what has long been test-lab technology into an enterprise environment. I love absolutely everything about IoT. IT is an essential technology. Contemporary sensor technologies are at the core of everything. It’s just that there are a lot of organisations not doing it right.
Like many technologists, I was hooked on IoT since I first sat in a Las Vegas AWS re: invent conference breakout session in 2015 and learned about MQTT protocols applied to any little thing, and how I could re-order laundry detergent or beer with an AWS button, that clumsy precursor to Alexa.
Parts of that presentation have stayed with me to this day. Predict and act. What business doesn’t want to be able to do that better? I can still see the room. I still have those notes. And I’m still working to help others embrace the full potential of this must-have enterprise capability.
There is no doubt that IoT is the Cinderella of smart cities. Even digital twinning. Without it, there is no story. It is critical to contemporary organisations because of the real-time decision-making data it can provide into significant (Industry 4.0) infrastructure and service investments. That’s worth repeating. It is critical to supporting large scale capital investments and anyone who has been in IT for any length of time knows that vindicating the need for new IT investments to capital holders is the most elusive of business demands.
But it is also a bottom-up technology that requires a top-down business case – a challenge also faced by around 40% of organisations in the Ecosystm study – and a number of other architectural components to realise its full cost-benefit or capital growth potential. Let’s not quibble, IoT is fundamental to both operational and strategic data insights, but it is not the full story.
If IoT is the belle of the smart cities ball, then integration is the glass slipper that ties the whole story together. After four years as head of technology for a capital city deeply committed to the Smart City vision, if there was one area of IoT investment I was constantly wishing I had more of, it was integration. We were drowning in data but starved of the skills and technology to deliver true strategic insights outside of single-function domains.
This reality in no way diminishes the value of IoT. Nor is it either a binary or chicken-and-egg question of whether to invest in IoT or integration. In fact, the symbiotic market potential for both IoT and integration solutions in asset-intensive businesses is not only huge but necessary.
IoT solutions are fundamental contemporary technologies that provide the opportunity for many businesses to do well in areas they would otherwise continue to do very poorly. They provide a foundation for digital enablement and a critical gateway to analytics for real-time and predictive decision making.
When applied strategically and at scale, IoT provides a magical technology capability. But the bottom line is that even magic technology can never carry the day when left to do the work of other solutions. If you have already plunged into IoT then chances are it has already become your next data silo. The question is now, what you are going to do about it?