5 Ways The Internet Of Things Can Improve Efficiency

The Internet of Things (IoT)—the network of devices connected to the Internet and to each other—is growing at an astounding rate. A report by communication tech company Ericsson estimates that by 2022 there will be around 18 billion Internet of Things devices communicating with each other around the world. This represents an enormous opportunity for businesses looking to operate more effectively and efficiently.

And those increased efficiencies will impact HR departments worldwide. “While humans are still in the center of all these machines, it’s time for HR to up the ante and prepare the workforce for these new waves of technology,” writes Patrick Willer in a post for ERE Media’s Talent Management and HR site.

“Companies are facing another wave of technology that will have a big impact on the way we work. The human resources department is in a unique position to prepare the workforce for this new way of working and to utilize the Big Data generated by IoT,” Willer concludes.

The following use cases will help you anticipate some of the many changes coming our way as IoT acceptance continues to build.

It’s all about the data

Much of the advantage the Internet of Things brings to business is in the form of data. You’ve probably heard of Big Data, a term that refers to the massive amounts of information collected and stored by connected devices. And as big as Big Data was when it first entered the scene in the early 2010s, it’s only getting bigger by the day. That growth is due in large part to the sensors that make up much of the Internet of Things. Companies are using these sensors and devices to gather enormous amounts of information, which they can then leverage to increase efficiency in amazing ways.

Here are five examples of how the IoT is growing efficiency across industries.

1. The IoT decreases maintenance times

Equipment maintenance is an unavoidable part of doing business, but downtime due to maintenance doesn’t need to be. The transportation industry, for example, is using the IoT and Big Data in smart ways to anticipate maintenance needs and take care of issues in more efficient ways. The aim is to address problems before they spiral into costly emergencies.

One of the leading innovators in this space is Rolls Royce. The company builds its Engine Health Management system into its aircraft engines. The system, a combination of sensors and powerful analytics tools, generates and sifts through terabytes of data on every flight, allowing Rolls-Royce to identify issues and plan maintenance well in advance. This helps minimize delays for passengers and keep fuel and other operating costs down for airlines.

2. The IoT helps source public safety data

Another area where the Internet of Things can increase efficiency is in the collection and analysis of public safety data. In this field, time is especially critical. The more difficult and time-consuming it is to gather and assess info, the greater the chances of someone being injured in a disaster like a fire, storm, or avalanche.

The latter is the focus for Mountain Hub (formerly known as Avatech), a startup that was born at MIT and is developing smart solutions to help snow-safety professionals assess avalanche risks. One of the company’s flagship products is the Avatech SP2, a foldable probe that can be inserted into a snowpack to test the structural integrity in seconds. The probe measures the force needed to push it into the snow using pressure sensors, and it displays the info on a screen built into the handle. More importantly, it can sync with a mobile device and upload that data to build a global map of snowpack conditions and avalanche risks based on collected user data.

3. The IoT helps streamline and automate manufacturing

Manufacturing has been heavily impacted by the Internet of Things, with spending on IoT technology expected to reach $ 70 billion per year by 2020. It’s likely that much of that investment will go toward the same objectives being focused on currently: asset tracking, maintenance, and control room function consolidation.

Many major global manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon, including Harley-Davidson, which has been retrofitting existing equipment in its plants with sensors and a software system to alert managers about potential issues and keep everything running smoothly and efficiently. The company considers the project a success—it has allowed them to stop keeping and maintaining redundant equipment at the plant to serve as backup in case of failure.

4. The IoT helps streamline retail operations 

In the retail world, big names like Walmart and Macy’s are now using IoT technology to streamline operations and allow brick-and-mortar stores to compete with online channels. The tech helps with inventory management, loss prevention, and data gathering on which items are selling and which are taking up space. This allows stores to optimize layouts and make the best use of their limited space.

Macy’s uses a system of RFID tags—tiny connected chips with antennas to broadcast data—that significantly reduces the amount of time and manpower needed to replenish stock and manage inventory. The company places the RFID tags in the pricing labels of merchandise. The tags can then be scanned by employees with handheld units that can grab info from an entire rack of clothes in one pass and then pinpoint the location of items missing from the rack in the stockroom. The system, originally piloted in New York in 2009, is being rolled out to all its locations by the end of 2017.

5. The IoT helps streamline city management

Businesses aren’t the only organizations that can benefit from the Internet of Things. Cities are also using the technology to more efficiently handle common issues, from traffic jams to building maintenance. Europe is leading the pack here, with several major cities working on IoT initiatives.

London is testing a smart parking system designed to speed up the process of finding an available parking space. The city believes this will help alleviate traffic congestion. Another example is Copenhagen, where over 40 percent of the population uses bikes for transportation. The city is using sensors to monitor bike traffic and improve routes.

These are just a few examples—the possibilities the IoT opens for organizations and businesses is tremendous. It won’t be long before any company that wants to compete will have to jump on board. How will that impact your HR department? Are you prepared?

For more real-world examples of how IoT benefits business, see Five Real Business Uses Of The Internet Of Things.

Photo credit: JCT600 Flickr via Compfight cc


Internet of Things – Digitalist Magazine

IoT And Connected Assets

The Internet of Things (IoT) involves connected products, assets, fleets, infrastructures, markets, and people. In this series of blogs, we’ll address each of these connected aspects in turn.

IoT promises to revolutionize the operation and maintenance of high-value, long-life equipment such as industrial machinery. The operators of these assets can use IoT data to optimize performance, uptime, costs, and business processes. The manufacturers and providers of service for these assets can use IoT data to optimize design, functionality, customer service, and business models.

But IoT data has remained separated from the context of business information and processes. For example, sensor data might tell you that an asset is operating outside its specifications. So you watch the asset for a period of time. If it seems like there has been an impact on production output, you send out a technician to inspect the asset. The technician estimates that the asset should be fixed and manually submits a request to maintenance. Maintenance creates a work order and procures a spare part. When the part comes in, the asset is scheduled for repair.

In the meantime, the asset fails, and production grinds to a halt.

But there’s a better way. In the past we worked to integrate the shop floor with the top floor. Now we need to integrate operational technology (OT) with information technology (IT). By capturing sensor data and combining it with other business data in real time, asset operators can achieve predictive maintenance and automated procurement of parts and dispatch of service. At the same time, manufacturers and service providers can continuously improve asset quality and even create new, more effective assets.

Three dimensions of IoT data

To achieve these outcomes, OT-IT integration needs to occur across three dimensions:

Fixed-asset insights: Companies must move from a reactive to a proactive approach to maintenance. They can achieve this through an integrated asset network that enables collaboration among manufacturers, service providers, and end customers. Fixed-asset insights let you achieve predictive maintenance and service, from identifying emerging problems early to automating parts procurement and maintenance scheduling. These capabilities can serve assets that are owned and operated by a company, as well as those that are installed at a customer site and covered by a service contract.

Manufacturing execution: Manufacturers need to gain real-time visibility across plants, suppliers, and machines. They can do this by connecting manufacturing IoT data within the business context of orders, quality, and performance. They can further connect IoT data with supply chain networks. The result is more flexible, scalable, cost-efficient, and tightly controlled manufacturing.

Manufacturing networks: Manufacturers need to identify and resolve problems across the supply chain to manage product introductions and changes, share process improvements, and improve on-time delivery. They can achieve this by combining IoT data with a collaborative B2B network. Among other advantages, they’ll be able to identify hidden production capacity and rapidly and cost-effectively scale production to respond to market demand.

IoT data, the new oil

Data in the 21st century has been compared to oil in the 19th century: a vast, valuable, and still largely untapped resource.

Some energy companies are taking that metaphor literally and realizing transformational results from integrating OT and IT. In one case, an energy company that operates numerous large gas turbines across several plants noted that 13 of those turbines needed constant maintenance. By linking data across plants, the company realized that the 13 turbines were all made by the same vendor. The new visibility can help it reduce costs for service and increase uptime. It also gives the company new options – for example, replacing the assets with turbines from another vendor or working with the original vendor to make design improvements.

Another energy company that has more than 70 plants worldwide discovered that the operational costs for its Malaysia plant are four times as much as expected compared to other plants. Integration of real-time IoT data with business data is helping the company home in on potential causes such as faulty equipment, over-maintenance, or culturally influenced approaches to plant operation.

IoT provided the data. Integration with business context delivered the insights. The good news is that the technologies and capabilities now exist to achieve this integration.

Effective IoT connectedness requires a unifying foundation. SAP has addressed this need by introducing the SAP Leonardo portfolio, an innovative IoT solution portfolio designed to help organizations digitally transform existing processes and evolve to new digital models. Learn more by downloading an SAP Leonardo brochure, reading about real-world use cases, visiting sap.com/iot, attending our flagship event Leonardo Live this summer, and following us on Twitter at @SAPLeonardo.

Internet of Things – Digitalist Magazine

Five Real Business Uses Of The Internet Of Things

Exciting as the topic is, many of us struggle to articulate real business applications that the Internet of Things (IoT) can be used for. What we need are a few simple, memorable examples, and recently I’ve been collecting a few of these across different industries. I’ve tried to lay them out here without all the usual technical speak that usually accompanies them. I’d love to hear more. Please add them in the comments below!

Retail: Clearing the shelves

The retail industry has made great strides in optimizing stock and avoiding waste, but it continues to explore ways of improving further. The latest case I came across was using the IoT to shift aging inventory. By combining knowledge of what’s on the shelves and who’s in the store, it’s now possible to push personalized promotions to shoppers who are walking in the aisles where products need to be shifted. With deeper knowledge of the customers’ individual preferences, such promotions can be made even more effective.

Remote workers: Keeping them mobile

Any small business that depends on the reliability of its vehicles knows the cost of breakdowns (money, time, customer satisfaction, etc.) But what if you have thousands or tens of thousands of vehicles out in the field? How do you stay on top of those? The IoT can be used to monitor huge numbers of industrial vehicles in real time. By permanently tracking performance, problems can be anticipated and the cost of down-time avoided. What’s more, creative business models are also surfacing that will enable companies to make extra money by using the data to cross-sell and up-sell services through the customer service organization.

Oil and gas: Small improvements = Big bucks

When you’re running equipment as big as an oil rig or pipeline, the cost of unscheduled downtime can run into the millions of dollars. To reduce it to a minimum you need to not only constantly monitor every component, but also have a super-fast way to anticipate and respond to parts failure. Connecting machine monitoring back to supply chain and repair systems can lead to massive cost savings by predicting when repairs will be needed and triggering the parts and personnel to carry them out before failures occur.

Airlines: Keep that plane in the air

Keeping aircraft engines running smoothly is not only a safety matter – although that must be the primary consideration – it’s also the way to get the most out of planes that cost hundreds of millions of dollars each. The IoT is helping manufacturers continuously monitor aircraft engines and all their components using real-time predictive analytics. As a result, they can determine the remaining useful life of the engine, predict the time to parts failure, and keep planes safely in the air.

Public safety: Beating the car thieves

Many cities and their police forces are looking to the IoT to help them get smarter and stay ahead of criminals. By combining video cameras and analytics it is now possible to automatically monitor huge amounts of video “data.” This in turn can be combined with existing information the police have on missing vehicles and crime hot spots to help prevent car theft and identify stolen cars.

All of these topics and more will be covered in more detail in the upcoming SAPPHIRE NOW, on May 14-16 in Orlando. Come and check them out!

Internet of Things – Digitalist Magazine

Ride Sharing Goes Hyperlocal with Jugnoo

CEO Samar Singla launched two successful startups before co-founding Jugnoo.

Serial entrepreneur Samar Singla was about to begin his PhD in applied physics at Stanford University when he deliberately chose to leave the heart of the technology universe—Silicon Valley—to launch his ventures back home in India. He moved to Chandigarh, a city known more for its Le Corbusier architecture than for its entrepreneurial infrastructure. And that suits Singla just fine. “San Francisco was crazy. There’s so much noise and distraction,” he says.

His latest startup, auto rickshaw business Jugnoo, seeks the same haven from crowded entrepreneurial scenes and business markets as Singla himself. Launched in 2014, Jugnoo harnesses India’s ubiquitous yet underutilized auto rickshaw capacity to provide commuters with rides at around a third of the price of car-based options. Singla has targeted tier-two and tier-three cities that the well-funded transportation disrupters like San Francisco-based Uber and Bengaluru-based Ola Cabs largely neglect. “They’re focused on the top 20% of the demographic,” says Singla, a native of Punjab. “We’re focused on the bottom 80%.”

The Right Motivation

Traditionally, auto rickshaw drivers got six, maybe seven, customers per day. “They were only busy 30% of the time,” explains Singla. It was hardly an efficient process for driver or passenger. Singla wanted to use digital technology to upgrade the experience for both.

Jugnoo combines a ride service with deliveries.

Singla wasn’t worried about attracting customers. India’s consumers are quick to switch platforms for the right price, he says. But he did have to win over the drivers. Auto rickshaw operators were accustomed to haggling to get the best fares for the few rides they provided. When Singla tried to sell them on his standardized pricing platform—one rate, rain or shine—they were wary, even as he explained that the system could yield more money. “Changing behavior is always difficult,” Singla says. He began with the few drivers willing to give Jugnoo a chance. Once the early adopters saw their earnings increase, more joined. “If you provide value to people, they will eventually understand,” says Singla. “It takes time and effort, but it works.”

From the start, Singla and co-founder Chinmay Agarwal (now chief technology officer of Jugnoo) envisioned creating an on-demand delivery service for businesses using auto rickshaws rather than simply focusing on the traditional consumer business. But they knew they would need to grow the driver network until they had enough extra capacity to add deliveries to the mix to avoid alienating drivers. Customers are local businesses like restaurants, retailers, or print shops for whom the logistics of delivery were onerous and something they were eager to offload.

Jugnoo’s network of auto rickshaws completes 30,000 rides and 5,000 deliveries daily.

A Hyperlocal Approach

Singla calls the Jugnoo model “hyperlocal commerce,” which focuses on the value of proximity and instant gratification. “Getting the product right away is the biggest priority—and customers are willing to pay a few rupees more for that,” Singla says.

Jugnoo reports that it now completes 30,000 rides and 5,000 deliveries a day. Still, Singla has not been able to completely avoid the long reach of Uber and Ola. “They are willing to burn money on taxis, which creates artificial pricing pressure on us,” Singla says, “so our margins aren’t as decent as we’d like.”

But Singla is having the last laugh. Business customers are willing to pay a premium for the convenience and reliability Jugnoo provides. While not a loss leader, the less lucrative ride business makes the more profitable delivery division possible.

An app to ride: (l to r) Isha Singla and Jugnoo co-founders Samar Singla and Chinmay Agarwal.

The Benefits of Being an Outsider

And Singla, whose other startups have been based on Jugnoo-like platforms for moving companies and fitness trainers, and on applying technology to the poultry feed business, still has no regrets about locating in Chandigarh. “We’d much rather be here quietly doing our thing and building our technology.”

Drivers initially resisted Jugnoo’s fixed pricing—until they saw that they could make more money.

Thus far, Singla has found much of the talent he’s needed to staff his 200-person company locally with satellite offices in the United States, Mexico, Romania, Hungary, and the Philippines. “If we ever can’t find the talent we need, we’ll move. But that hasn’t happened yet,” he says. “And being in Chandigarh keeps me sane.” D!


Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

Internet of Things – Digitalist Magazine

IoT And Connected Fleets

The Internet of Things (IoT) involves connected products, assets, fleets, infrastructures, markets, and people. In this series of blogs, we’ll address each of these connected aspects in turn.

While IoT can improve the management of fixed assets such as manufacturing equipment, it also optimizes the management of assets that are in motion — from trucks to forklifts to autonomous vehicles. We refer to this application of IoT as connected fleets.

The first connected fleets have involved automobiles. By 2021, nearly 100 million connected cars will be sold each year. For companies like GM, which already boasts a fleet of 12 million IoT-enabled cars, connected fleets can transform business models.

Connected fleets have implications for many organizations. Manufacturers of all kinds can use connected fleets to gain new visibility into their supply chains, lowering transportation costs and boosting throughput and fleet efficiency — while improving customer service through on-time delivery, for example. Logistics providers can increase revenues, identify and reduce unused capacity, and improve delivery. Heavy-equipment operators such as mining companies can manage trucks, loaders, and other expensive equipment in remote locations.

Maxing connections and advantages

To gain the maximum advantages of connected fleets, it helps to recognize the areas where IoT connectivity can deliver the most benefits. We’ve identified three key use cases:

Mobile asset insights — IoT enables organizations to capture and analyze vehicle data in real time. While that sounds straightforward, the potential benefits are manifold.

You can monitor vehicle operating parameters and performance to keep assets well-maintained and operational. You can also track vehicle location and driver behavior to make sure assets are being used in the right manner in the right context. For example, usage patterns for acceleration, braking, idle time, and fuel consumption could reflect undesirable driver behavior.

Geofencing capabilities allow fleet management to restrict, warn, or log usage of assets. Simply by adding sensors to a truck trailer, you can track container capacity and cargo conditions such as vibration and temperature.

Current telematics data enables real-time route planning for outbound logistics, with the ability to respond to changing conditions such as traffic. It can also help you improve efficiency to accommodate priority or incoming orders for share-load logistics. Historical telematics data enables operational improvements to fleet management in warehouses and on the shop floor.

Logistics safety — IoT allows organizations to improve the safety of assets, hazardous goods, and people. Equipment sensors can make sure assets function only in safe locations and operating parameters. They can also monitor hazardous goods and conditions. Wearable technology can ensure the safety of people in both routine and extreme situations.

This functionality can help organizations save tremendous amounts of money by avoiding equipment malfunctions and accidents. It can also save lives. In the event of an accident or safety situation, IoT can aid recovery efforts, informing rescuers and keeping them out of harm’s way.

Logistics networks — IoT allows organizations to optimize supply chain logistics and regulatory compliance across their global networks. This can be especially useful for organizations like hubs and port authorities. How can they continually increase throughput without growing physical capacity? By running fleets more efficiently.

Track-and-trace capabilities let you understand how many orders will enter a port, for example. A network logistics hub allows you to orchestrate the right number of containers, cranes, trains, trucks, and other equipment at the right time. And because the data is real-time, you can quickly adjust to changing conditions such as weather. Track and trace also improves regulatory compliance — for example, by allowing you to avoid packing or storing incompatible hazardous materials.

New connections, new models

In all these situations, organizations gain opportunities for new competitive advantage.

Manufacturers can increase revenue by combining products with services. For example, a forklift manufacturer worked with SAP to reimagine its business. The company had saturated the market for high-end forklifts. But IoT technology is enabling the company to lease forklifts and charge based on usage. By using sensors and connectivity to closely track how forklifts are being used — the number or weight of loads handled, for example — the company can lease its products to companies of all sizes, which pay only for the services they actually use. Customers don’t need to make large capital investments, and the manufacturer gains a new, ongoing revenue stream from both existing and new customers.

Service providers such as insurers offering pay-per-use models can leverage asset usage and location data to determine risk. The insurer benefits by getting deeper insight into the asset, its purpose, and location. Customers benefit from potentially lower premiums or a pay-per-use cost model.

Logistics providers can increase revenue by offering unused capacity to a logistics business network. Matching capabilities could create a marketplace to match demand and supply for shippers and carriers. Airports can improve operations, including parking, security, catering, fueling, cleaning, and fleet management such as real-time airplane tracking.

The efficiencies of connected fleets often pay off in lower costs and better customer experiences. The key is to go beyond simple gathering of IoT data. Organizations will need to combine sensor data with contextual and business data, and then analyze it to gain insights and make predictions. It’s at this informational intersection that connected fleets will truly deliver value.

Effective IoT connectedness requires a unifying foundation. SAP has addressed this need by introducing the SAP Leonardo portfolio, an innovative IoT solution portfolio designed to help organizations digitally transform existing processes and evolve to new digital models. Learn more by downloading an SAP Leonardo brochure, reading about real-world use cases, visiting sap.com/iot, attending our flagship event Leonardo Live this summer, and following us on Twitter at @SAPLeonardo.

Internet of Things – Digitalist Magazine