The Path to IoT Success Requires Preparation
The world of IoT is moving fast, and there seems to be no end to the new offerings from manufacturers and startups. But the reality is that businesses can easily be left in the lurch when plans change, or products and companies fail completely.
Two factors will help integrators avoid that fate. The first is a focus on business goals that will generate a positive return on investment within a defined time frame. The second is to do enough research about your proposed offering to provide insight into next steps.
“If you expect IoT to radically improve your services, predict and preempt problems, or repair failures faster, be clear on how you will monetize,” says Graham Binks, technology consultant, author, and CEO of primeFusion, in Toronto.
Make these decisions before approaching the project or even deciding on the type of services you intend to offer too. Your decision matrix should include target values for whether you will deliver industry-standard service at lower cost, charge more for differentiated service levels, or some other advantage you have confidence you can deliver.
“If you expect IoT to be able to deliver a viable product you can add to your offerings, do some research,” Binks adds. A limited deployment can provide a proof of concept that lets you test the waters before committing to full development and inventory. Deploy your test cases in noncritical environments or as secondary systems so that malfunctions or failure of the test cases won’t jeopardize your test environment’s business operations. Whether your testing succeeds or fails, you’ll learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t. Inevitably, your first attempt will need to be revised and adjusted before it’s ready for the real world.
Pitfalls to avoid
Experts recommend being conservative with your revenue projections as well as the expectations you offer to customers. But be aggressive about experimenting with multiple IoT applications, they add. Some will prove successful while others will fall short. Starting more projects gives integrators more experience with more types of systems, which can help bridge the steep learning curve inherent in IoT systems.
Limit the scope of test projects though, Binks cautions. “The up-front cost of connecting tens of thousands of devices is considerable,” he says. “Reduce equipment costs with minimum viable specs and bulk purchases.”
Installation costs can be substantial in large deployments and may require factory setup and visits to the equipment locations. Evaluate the projected payback for each system for your customer and your operations objectives, because each project differs. Some projects make sense over the short term while others may require five years to pay back.
Carefully evaluate connectivity too. Mission-critical devices require reliable and persistent connectivity. Many potential IoT environments are inherently connectivity-unfriendly. Factories, basements, cold rooms, among other locations, can block IoT connections. Learn what options are available, their costs, and their limitations ahead of time and plan on adding them when the environment calls for it.
“Some devices can operate with intermittent connections,” Binks explains, “aggregating data for transmission when a connection is available.”
Get ahead of the curve
Adding advanced processes like edge computing that combine data aggregation, preprocessing, and analytics can offer savings on data transmission and near real-time response for your customer, as well as increased profitability to the integrator. Once you have a system that works, look for ways to add services and functions on the same proven IoT platforms.
There’s plenty of opportunity for IoT integrators to succeed. Look for the best business fits and build expertise along with a solid customer base.
SCOTT KOEGLER is a technology journalist with 20 years’ experience writing about business, computing, and technology topics. He was CIO for three midsize companies for a total of 15 years. His work with developers, marketing, business processes, and C-level executives has allowed him to focus on the intersection of business and technology.