February 21, 2018
By Pete Wood
By now, you’ve likely heard more than one prediction forecasting billions and billions of connected IoT devices by 2020 or 2025. Ultimately, the exact number is less relevant than the broader fact that IoT adoption is picking up steam and that the connected technology is beginning to blur the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds. But the question remains: How should IoT change how business leaders, designers and manufacturers think about topics such as R&D, marketing and security? In other words, which elements should be in an IoT strategy? This article provides five core strategies to help you keep pace with the IoT revolution.
1. Use What You Know
Demand for quality and bespoke products is replacing the desire for mass-produced goods. Getting products to market quickly enough to meet the evolving expectations of consumers is a serious design challenge.
Businesses must strike the right balance between new and familiar user interfaces to deliver improved manufacturing at speed. IoT is about enterprise asset intelligence — something product manufacturers are already familiar with, so this should not be too daunting.
Companies can apply the knowledge they already possess and use IoT to work out answers quickly and accurately to questions like: “What do I need to find out at a given point of activity?” That question could refer to something that happens on your property, at a vendor facility or elsewhere in the supply chain. From picking to trailer unloading to equipment service calls, you need that information promptly.
Instead of hoping materials will arrive in time, or waiting for a stock out to indicate replenishments, a manager with a solid IoT strategy and visibility can leverage what they know from IoT insights and prepare or adjust proactively before small problems become big ones.
2. Combine R&D with User Insights
One of the benefits of using IoT is it challenges organizations to think beyond the physical object and adapt to manufacturing processes to keep up with change.
As user actions evolve, so will businesses’ approach to different interfaces in order to keep up with demand for the latest products. Just as touch screens introduced the pinch, finger scroll and swipe, we can expect more natural movements controlling our environments in the future, such as hand gestures and voice recognition.
The R&D sector can play a critical role here and some agencies have already identified the technology gaps that need filling across manufacturing. Businesses want to use such insights to differentiate themselves, monitor real-time developments and drive future-thinking decisions.
Combining research on evolving market conditions and user feedback will enable manufacturers to design and release updated versions of a product, so it will meet its maximum capabilities.
3. Agree on a Unique Selling Proposition
Deciding whether IoT adoption is right for your business should be based on whether it will address a specific problem inhibiting growth. By defining the underlying needs of your organization, a prospective IoT solution can be selected to address the issue.
First, use problem statements to cover the fundamental questions like: “Why does this matter?” and “How will this benefit customers in the long run?”
For example; say you need more advanced industrial sensors to improve manufacturing. You know a new solution is needed to generate a much broader range of data. It must also be able to securely communicate information back to streamline processes – these are two issues IoT can effectively help with to improve daily productivity.
Next, you should define a prospective solution’s functional requirements and the core competencies required to support your chosen IoT strategy. You want to be sure you have a good understanding of any possible limitations, affiliating the things your company does best with the needs of a solution modified to your market.
4. Strategies for Privacy and Security
Any device connecting to a business network creates risk. They capture everything from conversations, to locations, while tracking and accessing company financials and customer data. Cybercriminals see that as immensely valuable, making connected businesses prime targets for attack.
When advancing and implementing IoT applications to enhance product requirements and manufacturing processes, it’s critical organizations communicate clearly the need to build security testing into development and work with third-party providers.
All business leaders want to be quick to market and save on costs, but security should be treated as being just as important. To reduce risk and protect data, organizations should encrypt not only the communications but also commands and values. This should be done on a field level, going from device to infrastructure and remote-control elements.
5. Get Ready for Mechanical Thinking
Recent findings from Pew Research, reveals many businesses are wary about the growing trend in automation and still place value in human decision-making.
However, it’s doubtful AI or the IoT will take over businesses completely. It’s more likely to revolutionize mundane employee tasks and create new job roles.
The potential to move towards predictive maintenance is one of the most exciting promises made by analytics and data capture technologies to help business’ manufacturing processes.
Technologies such as IoT-driven cloud service management platforms will enable businesses to make the leap to “predictive maintenance” and fix problems before they even occur. Companies will have detailed insight into what might happen and be better placed to spot and diagnose any potential issues remotely, without the need to dispatch field technicians or work out how to manage unplanned downtime.
Soon, smart devices should be able to monitor inventory changes, take correction to avoid damages, and replenish individual parts automatically. This will free-up employees for more critical, cognitively demanding tasks.
Embracing Future Possibilities
In changing the nature of products, IoT technology unavoidably guides their design. If organizations want to meet the challenges of digital disruption, they should focus on readying themselves to design and develop IoT-enabled manufacturing.
It’s imperative we build a talent pool capable of addressing not only IoT but artificial intelligence, app design and big data analytics. Encourage cross-functional collaboration to ensure designers and engineers can share expertise and focus on solving design challenges together.
Knowing the possibilities — but also where help is needed — will be crucial for future business success.
Pete Wood is the head technology evangelist at RS Components.
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