​What you need to know about the Internet of Things

There are gaps in insight and knowledge around how to harness IoT for business

The time is now. At a recent forum, Davidson Technology assembled CIOs from prominent Australian businesses to discuss the opportunities and challenges of the Internet of Things (loT) and what they need to know as part of their day-to-day job in planning for the future.

Telstra’s chief scientist, Dr Hugh Bradlow, was the keynote speaker at the forum alongside Creator Global founder, Slade Sherman, who both brought expert knowledge and insight on IoT to the table.

The key message from the event was clear: IoT is not a future state, not the next big thing, it’s here now and needs to be on businesses’ agendas.

This is not news for those working at the coalface of the sector. Our technology and digital leaders know this; some CEOs might too.

But where there appears to be some gaps in insight and knowledge is how to harness IoT for business, and quickly.

Some businesses are embracing it already. Fitness companies and car manufacturers have taken an early lead, and communications businesses like Telstra are building networks to connect devices.

According to Dr Bradlow the possibilities are endless to transform businesses with IoT.

In 2013, Wim Elfrink of Cisco, presented at the IoT World Forum and shared the following statistics on how IoT can positively impact certain areas of our lives:

  • Water consumption will drop by 50 per cent
  • Energy savings will increase by 30 per cent
  • Traffic congestion will drop by 30 per cent
  • Crime rates will drop by 20 per cent.

They all have the following in common:

  • Large amounts of data
  • Large scale public consumption
  • Existing inefficiencies.

IoT increases efficiency

IoT provides the ability to optimise efficiencies by capturing and managing data.

It’s a natural extension of the disruptive era. It’s finding ways to use data and technology to improve systems and procedures to reduce costs. Seems like a basic economic equation really.

“Businesses that will be able to capitalise on IoT are those that are able to move quickly. It’s a do or die scenario,” Dr Bradlow said.

“The barriers to entry for introducing IoT are not high. If Australian businesses don’t embrace IoT, their competitors will. The biggest risk is complacency. Businesses can’t assume that IoT is something that they can leave until later to tackle.”

It was noted during our CIO discussions that Australian businesses are perceived to be relatively conservative in their practices. They can stifle their own advancements, while more liberated businesses overseas take risks, innovate, make changes and thrive.

Dr Bradlow has a mantra about how Australian businesses need to embrace IoT and most importantly lead the way.

“Everything that can be measured will be measured,” Dr Bradlow said.

With this, he has a dedicated focus on ‘actionable insights’ as the driving force behind the measurement.

“We are awash with data, but the real science is in collecting and interpreting the data to deliver actionable outcomes,” he said.

Agile organisations that can make changes that deliver actionable insights in a timely manner will be best placed to capitalise on the IoT revolution. Dr Bradlow is most excited about the potential of IoT in areas such as smart cities, smart cards, health, power grid, and agriculture.

Today, more than 99 per cent of things are not connected according to Cisco. This is going to change rapidly. Cisco predicts that by 2020 there will be 50 billion IoT devices globally.

The amount of change IoT can bring is sometimes too big for organisations to bite off all at once.

Not all technology decisions are made by technology leaders and the process can involve many decision-makers, according the CIOs at our recent forum.

Slade Sherman encourages organisations to take a stepped approach to IoT projects and start with asking “‘what can we do today? What can we do over the next six months to set a strong foundation?’ Something that Slade runs with his clients during the explore phase is a ‘create-a-thon’.

“Create-a-thon’ brings hackathon thinking to your organisation but focuses on the company needs and is best when it includes members from various parts of the participating organisation,” Sherman said.

“It is an explore phase that we work on with clients that combines human-centred design thinking, technology and marketplace knowledge to help an organisation look at the opportunities of IoT through a new lens.

“At the end of this process we are able to generate a shortlist of connected product ideas that are relevant to the company.”

This then allows businesses to get IoT projects underway sooner, without the delays associated with lengthy approval processes. It helps to get some runs on the board.

What does it mean in terms of skills and staffing?

It is clear that qualified and skilled data managers will continue to be in demand. This is a growing area within the technology and digital market. It shows no sign of slowing.

The good news is that there is an abundance of courses available for people to gain the required skills. Like any burgeoning area though, the key is to inform students of the growing demand for workers in this area so that they make informed choices and select study paths in line with job growth.

Automation will play a part in the area, but people still play a significant role in adding meaning to the data.

Damien Ross is the CEO at Davidson Technology.

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