The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most transformational trends that are shaping the future of organisations across the globe. The hype is fully justified – all forecasts indicate the IoT is set to grow, with Gartner predicting that by 2020, some 25 billion devices will be connected to the Internet.
Ross Hickey, CEO of IoT service provider Trinity Telecoms, says the IoT is not only helping businesses of all types and sizes improve cost efficiencies, product quality, and service levels, it is driving completely new revenue streams and business models.
“However, as businesses look to the IoT to prepare for the future, they are struggling to get started, as they have little to no experience in terms of of what is involved in an IoT journey, or the vast amount of skills and expertise needed to pull it off successfully.”
He says an IoT project is multi-faceted and utilises many new technologies and concepts. “According to a recent Cisco survey entitled ‘The Journey to IoT Value’, without adequate skills, both business and technical, the failure rate is 75%. You simply can’t just wing it.”
With any IOT implementation, there are several elements that need to be considered – strategy, infrastructure and business processes. “Business skills are needed to bridge the gap between IT departments and the business, as well as to have insight on where to acquire all the necessary skills internally and externally through employment or partnerships, and also how to develop those skills.”
According to Hickey, having the appropriate business skills will provide a clear understanding and commitment to extending the business case into the digital world, and the transformation that it will require. “In addition, a concise, multi-year plan with milestones and measurable targets, supported with a realistic business case is essential.”
He says the slow implementation of most IOT projects can be attributed to several factors, such as time to complete, a lack of internal capabilities or appropriate skills, lack of business transformation, poor cost planning and the quality of data received.
A business embarking on an IOT journey needs to have a good understanding of their own domain or their operational area of expertise. “Remember, the introduction of IOT forces and introduces new business processes that will affect the entire organisation.”
Firstly, he says a business sponsor or leader is needed. This individual will have the vision of what the IoT project needs to deliver, and will be available to drive change and adoption that will bring about positive disruption. “Next, the project will need a business solution architect, either a dedicated resource or a partner, who will architect the real requirements to execute the IoT vision. Finally, a project manager needs to come on board, who will understand the desired outcomes of the initiative, as well as manage the impact of the business process change.”
A technical perspective
Delving into the technical side of IOT, skills are needed to architect, implement, develop, road map infrastructure, manage security, and to capture and analyse data. “A highly experienced senior architect who has experience in fast data, understands the scalability required to ensure one doesn’t use the POC environment to go to market, and who can ensure you measure to monitor, to have the insight on which to make decisions, is crucial.”
In terms of integrating third party components, Hickey says it is important to have skills that are familiar and comfortable around platform-to-platform integrations and have the fragmentation and partnerships needed in IoT to necessitate this. “Bring experienced developers on board who are comfortable with styles, languages and the mechanisms used for different applications or by different partners. They must also be able to flexibly manage requirements that span a variety of hardware and software solutions.”
With the IOT it is also important to have security skills in place to ensure security is built in in from the ground up, and not added as an after thought. “Start with a secure design from day one, don’t think it is over-engineered. Security needs be considered across all layers of the solution, including sub-systems and integrations. It is important to know, partition and monitor your trusted and untrusted environments.
Speaking of architecture, he says: “Architect for scale, but start small. Cloud resources can be accessed quickly and cheaply with the right technology choices and partners. Be adaptable. Your user experience will drive perception, so stay on top of monitoring, and have the necessary tools in place to be able to do this.”
Hickey says the IoT is driving previously unimagined amounts of data, and to get real insights from that data, data processing and analysis is essential. “Fast data will soon be the new era, particularly in an IoT world. Data arising from turmoil, data in motion and data streaming will be where analysis needs to be applied. Real-time decision making is the true value delivery of IoT.”
Gleaning intelligence from the IoT is what will add real value. The next step will be bots making decisions for us, and ingesting millions of data points, events or transactions per second. “Having context-aware data is key to supporting a high level of machine learning or ‘gleaning’ intelligence.”
In terms of technical skills, the list needed to manage all these aspects is a long one, he says. “A good IoT project will need a senior software architect and a full-stack developer. In addition, a hardware developer, senior firmware developer, front end developer and senior back-end developer. A system administrator with a good understanding of hosted cloud environments, service provider relationships, and in-depth technical understanding around implementing a wireless networking solutions is vital. The system administrator will need to manage network requirements from the field to the hosted environment, and have the understanding needed to manage the volume of data.”
Ultimately, IoT projects are complex and challenging, and having the sheer number of skills needed to implement IoT successfully, is prohibitively expensive for all but the largest enterprises. There are a host of steps to be taken to completion. If an organisation does not have the right skills in place, it will be impossible to move the project forward to achieve business results.
However, for those organisations without limitless budgets, bringing an IoT cloud platform partner on board will help leverage the opportunities presented by the IoT. Managing the complexities associated with implementing the IoT isn’t easy. It requires skills, collaboration, solutions – for each element, and the system as a whole. A cloud platform that will enable the conversion of vast amounts of data generated by your IoT devices into fast and easily actionable tasks is the answer, concludes Hickey.
By Ross Hickey, CEO of IoT service provider Trinity Telecoms