For some time now we’ve been looking forward to the promise that the Internet of Things (IoT) will revolutionise the way we do business. With connected devices increasingly ubiquitous, that may well be the case. But without maintenance and a real understanding of business needs, that revolution is destined under-deliver.
That’s according to Dr Bennie Steyn, Chief Technology Officer, Etion Digitise (previously Ansys Rail), who also believes companies will be overwhelmed with data and that companies that fail to proactively plan for the IoT could face a paralysing kind of data overload.
“We can all agree that the digital revolution led by the internet of things is producing marvellous equipment and capabilities,” Steyn says. “These new capabilities create massive business opportunities, especially when it comes to extracting relevant information, which is so vital to contemporary business operations.”
That said, Steyn cautions that there are a few issues which will emerge as companies transition into the Industry 4.0 era.
The first is that all the additional sensors that come with the IoT era are bound to increase the traffic on networks and place strain on the maintenance of both networks and sensors.
“Once you have sensors producing data, businesses become dependent on that data,” says Steyn. “But if those networks and sensors are not maintained, then the source of that information you’re so dependent on actually disappears.”
As Steyn points out, many South African networks are already under severe strain, begging the question of what happens if we triple or even quadruple the number of sensors connecting to these networks.
“It’s very important that we don’t only define the solution,” Steyn says, “but that we also look at how we’re going to maintain this new system in a sustainable way.”
Another issue Steyn foresees as business embraces IoT is data overload. All the extra sensors required to make the IoT viable will produce massive amounts of data.
“The trouble,” he points out, is that, “a huge amount of data on its own is pretty useless.”
“It’s imperative therefore that businesses ensure they can transform raw data into useful, operational information,” Steyn comments. “In other words, you must take the valuable data produced by IoT sensors and make it usable.”
Tied to this is a need to ensure that businesses retain the expertise required to ensure that this data is used in the best interests of the business.
“In the Industry 4.0 era, we’re still going to need engineers and business people who understand the business that we want to support with IoT and digital,” Steyn says.