For manufacturers, enterprises and industrial OEMs, it is still early days in the overall IoT journey. But the most innovative organisations are going past deriving insights from their data to creating new products and lines of business.
What do you need to get there? A strong business plan, the right culture and leadership, and a little bit of patience.
A study from research firm Omdia in August emphasised the latter. The report, ‘Today’s Needs and Tomorrow’s Demands: Uncovering Enterprise Priorities for IoT Adoption’, polled more than 200 corporate enterprises with operations in North America. It found that while two thirds (67%) of respondents expect ROI within one year of deployment on their IoT initiatives, half (49%) admitted their biggest roadblock to achieving ROI was lengthy deployment times.
The strong business plan and culture helps in managing expectations – at least in the experience of those working with such organisations.
Charlie Key is co-founder and CEO of Losant, an enterprise IoT platform provider whose offering helps companies at various stages of their journeys, from organising data, to visualising it, to transforming the data into end user experiences. He notes it is more likely to take 18 months to see real ROI, because of technical and cultural challenges.
The good news is there are proof points along the way. “As you start, day one in a journey for an organisation – let’s say a 10-step journey where 10 is getting to production, seeing the ROI and scaling up – you’ve got day one and two, which are building a business case and building an understanding of what that is going to look like,” explains Key. “I think at that point, companies often don’t take in the cultural and organisational components they need to look at in order to get to day 10.
“That’s all pre-production,” Key adds. “Say we’re on the industrial side and we’re designing a new product. That’s all pre-product engineering, and that takes time, right? That may be when your consultant is in the door, and they’re telling you X, Y and Z. Let’s call that six months just to get to that point.
“Inside of a larger organisation, you’ve got another six months just to prove the technical capabilities – so you’re a year in before you’re really putting real technology together.”
There are various ways to create new business from IoT data, but they usually fall into two categories. You can go down the new product route, be it a data-driven or personalised experience, or you can go down the operational excellence route, enhancing an already-established product.
Key notes two Losant clients who are on this advanced path. One customer is focused on understanding the buildings they own, manage and lease from top to bottom. In a post-Covid world, analysing the value of real estate has become more difficult, so the need to analyse data and build bigger analytical models around these spaces is increasingly key. The other is an industrial customer with tens of thousands of pieces of equipment out in the market. They’re getting data, from RPMs (rotations per minute), to speed, to temperature, all in real-time and live.
The additional value comes not just for customers from a predictive maintenance standpoint, but also helping with design.
“Think about the way we design industrial equipment. Most of it is simulated or run in a testbed, so you get very little live data out in the field,” says Key. “So this company has done a good job of providing multiple departments with a different way to look and understand the data, obviously presented very differently to the support team, the customer base, the executive team, the design side.
“They’ve done a really good job of making sure that not only are they using the data and multiple facets of the business to add value, both in real-time and current, but in design time as they look to the future of the business,” adds Key.
The cultural evolution that may be required throughout the organisation have to be considered seriously. Key notes the typical process starts with a single R&D or product team which is pushing the new idea, putting something together that may be productised. “It’s typically done at a pretty small purview of the rest of the organisation,” explains Key. “They’ll have an executive sponsor, but the sponsorship isn’t really to figure out how they can use this company-wide. It’s really about how they solve this one smaller problem.”
This is all well and good, but there needs to be a strategy on how this information is collected and used which has to come from the top down. “Even if, let’s assume, the [organisation] has gotten to the point of ingesting the data somewhere, wherever that’s going, they haven’t culturally come up with an organisational structure to help the individuals who could benefit from interacting with the insights that can come from that data,” says Key. “That has to be driven culturally, throughout an organisation, from a communication standpoint to a data pipeline standpoint.”
The goal of companies like Losant, as Key puts it, is to make customers be able to shorten this journey; or, be able to increase their agility in the journey of getting a true product to market. Losant’s low-code platform enables various use cases, from deploying logic to the edge, to organising and aggregating data and devices, to data visualisation and, eventually, end user experiences. Future product plans are based around speed and scalability; from enabling customers’ low compute power resources, to greater AI and machine learning capabilities.
“We find that we have a number of customers who have come to us and, sadly, tried to either build it themselves or use another product for the market and found that what we have put together, and the very purposeful way that our platform delivers these experiences, is as good as it gets when it comes down to it,” says Key.
But the journey cannot be too short. “It’s a straightforward thing, but [organisations] don’t think about it that way,” adds Key. “They are ‘let’s plug in this thing and we’re going to have answers’ – and it’s never quite that easy.”
Connect with us if you’d like to learn more about how Losant can help your organization meet its IoT application development needs.