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The Internet of Things or IoT - beyond the jargon.

The ‘Internet of Things’ or ‘IoT’ has become one of the most recent technology buzzwords, and is already in danger of becoming the industry’s next misused and abused term. The purpose of this post is to help dispel some of the myths and invalid assumptions surrounding the topic and understanding why the Internet of Things is so central to tomorrow’s digital landscape. To start, let’s look at some of the definitions of what the Internet of Things or IoT is.

According to Gartner, ‘The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.’

Forbes states that IoT “is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other)” and they add “The IoT is a giant network of connected "things" (which also includes people).  The relationship will be between people-people, people-things, and things-things.”

As with all tech trends, there are multiple definitions to be discovered, however these two examples cover the bases. The core principles are that everything and anything can be connected, this includes people and virtually any object or “thing”. The IoT network is going to be massive and way bigger than the networks we connect to, use and manage today. The communication channel and value is not just in connecting people-to-people, or even people-to-things, the major opportunities are in connecting things-to-things. Particularly as we experience an increased evolution within Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology over the next decade.

For the rest of this post we are going to address the Internet of Things from and with the perspective of the organisation in mind and convey IoT applications within the businesses setting rather than everyday household or consumer environments. Let’s take the example of manufacturing businesses; IoT in manufacturing organisations has changed the way production can be monitored for quality control. Industry Week reported that new IoT innovations in production technologies can be now be monitored on a unit-level rather than a batch-level basis. They also reported that 1 in 5 manufacturing executives whose production process was initially offline, will not be within five years, indicating that the use of IoT will become the industry norm.

Industry Week captured the benefits of IoT to production & manufacturing firms in the following sentence, “Smart manufacturing is about creating an environment where all available information—from within the plant floor and from along the supply chain—is captured in real-time, made visible and turned into actionable insights.

Having been dubbed as Smart Manufacturing, it has changed the way manufacturers identify areas of improvement within their production process and streamline their operations using insights that were previously unavailable. With these new insights, executives can make better informed decisions about how they do business, and find ways they can become more efficient and profitable. We rarely see the technology behind making the manufacturing ‘smart’, but Industry Week noted Cisco’s VMES (virtual manufacturing execution system) as providing real-time visibility into the production process, by harnessing cloud, big data and IoT technology.

The key solutions behind any smart line of business activity involves looking at transforming an organisations Digital Network Architecture to be more adaptive, intuitive and agile. Typically, a manufacturing IoT strategy involves combining several disciplines including:

  • Insights and analytics: Enabling real-time analytics to track assets and resources in your production line.
  • Automation and assurance: Ability to centrally manage the plant floor and carpeted space network deployments.
  • Security and compliance: Detecting and mitigating threats accordingly.
  • Virtualisation: Deploy and manage networks efficiently.
  • DNA-ready infrastructure: The physical infrastructure; routing, switching and wireless products.

In an increasingly competitive world, manufacturers must get as much productivity as possible from their existing operations to maintain an advantage or even keep up with the market. The benefits of executing intelligent technology across your architecture results in being able to innovate faster, reduce complexity and reduce risks on your factory floor. Some of the features that business leaders can exploit include:

  • Make informed decisions using analytics and insights gained from having visibility into the plant floor.
  • Minimise administration tasks through automation and easy deployment.
  • Protecting the architecture against network breaches while maintaining product integrity
  • Driving standardisation by reinforcing multiple network protocols within production
  • Have easy access to intelligence and analytics to = deliver better production processes.

Nowcomm partner with Connecture for IoT solutions and consulting activities for our Customers, so we asked for some of their views and thoughts about the potential for IoT to benefit organisations.

IoT technology is quite different to typical innovations in the tech sector in that it’s applications will only widen as we understand it better, it can’t really become outdated and will find its way into many industry verticals.” Said Matt Goodman, Manging Director at Connecture and one of their IoT experts, Matt continued “I would say it’s under-utilised and currently under-appreciated given the relatively new and evolving concepts and technology solutions available. A lot of CIO’s and COO’s might not see how it opens a mammoth world of opportunities to not only improve production and processes, but sell better to their end-customers. For example, retail companies can utilise IoT principles to enhance the customer experience in-store and online by detecting customer footfall and remembering the kinds of items that customers are interested in and presenting that to them online or a personalised email. The possibilities are endless. Additionally, if you can understand your current production process better using smart insights, then you can find ways to improve your operations allowing you to increase unit production or product quality, or both

With an increased focus on security and IoT, combined with the scary thought of hacked printers, vending machines and door systems – it is necessary that as our understanding of IoT technology evolves that our knowledge of applying relevant security protocols develops too. Mark Lamont, Nowcomm’s Director of Operations weighed in, ‘We are constantly hearing about the latest malware to infiltrate the industry, which serves as a painful reminder that we can never be too prepared when it comes to protecting our network. The reality is that IT departments don’t have the time or the resources to stay on top of this all the time – that’s where Nowcomm comes in. Our NowSecure package is a comprehensive security solution that is designed with a defence-in-depth strategy in mind – we utilise different technologies and create a solution that covers you.’

IoT is a mighty discipline and if time was permitting we would write an entire book on its applications. If you’d like a better understanding of IoT then let us know in the comments. We are planning to hold a series of webinars, round tables and a deep-dive take on the technologies used during our 2018 schedule and this is your opportunity to shape the content and sectors our material will cover, and the locations we visit. Alternatively speak to one of our experts today by emailing HERE or calling 01332 821100.

References:

http://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/internet-of-things/

http://www.industryweek.com/manufacturing-smarter/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobmorgan/2014/05/13/simple-explanation-internet-things-that-anyone-can-understand/#39c814421d09

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