3 Things to Consider Before Choosing an IoT Platform for your Business

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Like many others, you may be considering ways to leverage new IoT technology to advance your business. Whether that means buying new sensors, servers, routers, or other devices – that depends on your goals and expectations. No matter what you envision, though, you are very likely to need some sort of software platform to enable it. Your software is what will transform your operational data into meaningful information, and your software will provide the interfaces your staff will use to interact with the information provided. Ideally, your software platform will provide many other benefits as well, including an ability to archive data, a way to automate certain tasks and enforce rules, and an ability to be customized and/or scaled to meet the needs of your growing business.

How do You Start Your Search?

Before selecting a software platform, it’s good to start with a clear idea of your needs, expectations, and goals. Then, when evaluating different platforms, see how they measure up against your checklist. This won’t necessarily help you choose the right platform, but it can certainly help you identify the wrong ones.

There are countless things to consider if you want to be rigorous to the point of decision paralysis, but if you’re eager to move forward, here are 3 important things to consider:

Think About Security

Every organization has a particular structure that must be maintained. Staff members need to have access to certain information to do their jobs and nothing more. This is not just a matter of security, but simple efficacy. There is no reason to burden someone’s mind with information that has no impact on their personal responsibilities within the organization.

It’s important that your software platform provides a means of managing user access. A maintenance technician logging in should not see the same information as a C-level executive. The technician does not need to see a graph depicting recent trends in discretionary spending any more than the executive needs to see a list of open work orders.

Of course, this should not be a matter of simply directing a certain user to a certain dashboard. The system should include the ability to completely lock down certain sets of information so that they cannot under any circumstances be accessed by another user.

Think About Your Existing Systems

Is this new system going to completely replace all your existing management systems? Or is it being installed as a supplement to what’s already in place? It may be possible to enhance and add value to your existing systems if done correctly. Will the new system communicate with your old systems and devices? Will it be read-only or bi-directional?

Unless you want to do a full replacement of your current systems, there will be many questions to ask about how all of these moving parts will fit together.

 

Think About the Future

Implementing your new IoT system will require some significant investment – both in resources and time. It’s important that the work done today doesn’t need to undone tomorrow when your work practices or business processes change. Ensure that the system you put in place today can be extended or modified as needed.

Assuming everything goes according to plan, it won’t be long before you’re thinking about expanding. Make sure your IoT software system doesn’t handcuff you.

Excerpted from the whitepaper “Choosing the Right IoT Platform”, downloaded at www.scada.com.

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4 Common Obstacles Between Your Enterprise and the IoT

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It should come as no surprise that most companies today have some sort of IoT initiative being discussed, planned, or developed – if not already implemented. And this phenomenon is global and completely horizontal. The early adopters of IoT are already seeing positive returns, and the march of progress is overwhelming if not inevitable.

Why Aren’t We All There Yet?

For those still planning their IoT initiatives and smoothing out the details, there are several barriers that can get in the way. Some of the most commonly cited in surveys include: security concerns, difficulty quantifying ROI to CEOs, concerns about compatibility with existing data systems, and concerns about the technical skills of the staff to implement such strategies.

Obstacle 1 – Increased Exposure of Data/Information Security

As could be expected, security is the almost always biggest concern in most organizations. With the World Wide Web as an example, people today are fully aware of the dangers inherent in transmitting data between nodes on a network. With many of these organizations working with key proprietary operational data that could prove advantageous to a competitor if exposed, the concern is very understandable.

Obstacle 2 – Proving ROI/Making the Business Case

This is a classic example of not knowing what you don’t know. Without an established example of how similar initiatives have impacted your organization in the past – or even how similarly sized and structured organizations have been impacted – it can be very difficult to demonstrate in a tangible way exactly how these efforts will impact the bottom line. Without being able to make the business case, it will be difficult for executives to sign off any new initiatives. This is likely why larger organizations ($5+ billion in annual revenue) are much more likely to have already implemented IoT initiatives, while smaller organizations are still in the planning phase.

Obstacle 3 – Interoperability with Current Infrastructure/Systems

Nobody likes to start over, and many of the executives surveyed are dealing with organizations who have made enormous investments in the technology they are currently using. The notion of a “rip and replace” type of implementation is not very appealing. The cost is not only related to the downtime incurred in these cases, but the wasted cost associated with the expensive equipment and software systems that are being cast aside. In most cases, to gain any traction at all a proposed IoT initiative will have to work with the systems that are already in place – not replace them.

Obstacle 4 – Finding the Right Staff/Skill Sets for IoT Strategy and Implementation

With the IoT still being a fairly young concept, many organizations are concerned that they lack the technical expertise needed to properly plan and implement an IoT initiative. There are many discussions taking place about how much can be handled by internal staff and how much may need to be out-sourced. Without confidence in their internal capabilities, it is also difficult to know whether they even have a valid strategy or understanding of the possibilities. Again, this is a case where larger organizations with larger pools of talent have an advantage.

There are some valid concerns, and not all of them lend themselves to simple solutions. In truth, many of the solutions will vary from one organization to the next. However, in many cases the solutions could be as simple as just choosing the right software platform. Finding a platform that eases your concerns about interoperability can also help ease your concerns about whether your staff can handle the change, as there will be no need to replace equipment. Likewise, a platform that can be integrated seamlessly into your current operations to help improve efficiency and implement optimization strategies will also make it much easier to demonstrate ROI.

Excerpted from the whitepaper “Choosing the Right IoT Platform”, downloaded at www.scada.com.

The Four Biggest Challenges to Enterprise IoT Implementation

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After endless cycles of hype and hyperbole, it seems most business executives are still excited about the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT). In fact, a recent survey of 200 IT and business leaders conducted by TEKSystems ® and released in January 2016 (http://www.teksystems.com/resources/pressroom/2016/state-of-the-internet-of-things?&year=2016) determined that 22% of the organizations surveyed have already realized significant benefits from their early IoT initiatives. Additionally, a full 55% expect a high level of impact from IoT initiatives over the next 5 years. Conversely, only 2% predicted no impact at all.

Respondents also cited the key areas in which they expect to see some of the transformational benefits of their IoT efforts, including creating a better user and customer experience (64%), sparking innovation (56%), creating new and more efficient work practices and business processes, (52%) and creating revenue streams through new products and services (50%).

The IoT is Expected to Impact Organizations in Numerous WaysThe IoT is Expected to Impact Organizations in Numerous Ways

So, with the early returns indicating there are in fact real, measurable benefits to be won in the IoT, and the majority of executives expect these benefits to be substantial, why are some organizations still reluctant to move forward with their own IoT initiatives?

As could be expected, security is the biggest concern, cited by approximately half of respondents.

Increased exposure of data/information security – 50%

With the World Wide Web as an example, people today are well aware of the dangers inherent in transmitting data between nodes on a network. With many of these organizations working with key proprietary operational data that could prove advantageous to a competitor if exposed, the concern is very understandable.

 

ROI/making the business case – 43%

This is a classic example of not knowing what you don’t know. Without an established example of how similar initiatives have impacted your organization in the past – or even how similarly sized and structured organizations have been impacted – it can be very difficult to demonstrate in a tangible way exactly how these efforts will impact the bottom line. Without being able to make the business case, it will be difficult for executives to sign off any new initiatives. This is likely why larger organizations ($5+ billion in annual revenue) are much more likely to have already implemented IoT initiatives, while smaller organizations are still in the planning phase.

 

Interoperability with current infrastructure/systems – 37%

Nobody likes to start over, and many of the executives surveyed are dealing with organizations who have made enormous investments in the technology they are currently using. The notion of a “rip and replace” type of implementation is not very appealing. The cost is not only related to the downtime incurred in these cases, but the wasted cost associated with the expensive equipment and software systems that are being cast aside. In most cases, to gain any traction at all a proposed IoT initiative will have to work with the systems that are already in place – not replace them.

Finding the right staff/skill sets for IoT strategy and implementation – 33%

With the IoT still being a fairly young concept, many organizations are concerned that they lack the technical expertise needed to properly plan and implement an IoT initiative. There are many discussions taking place about how much can be handled by internal staff and how much may need to be out-sourced. Without confidence in their internal capabilities, it is also difficult to know whether or not they even have a valid strategy or understanding of the possibilities. Again, this is a case where larger organizations with larger pools of talent have an advantage.

The full results break down like this:

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Many Organizations are Hesitant to Invest Much in IoT Initiatives at this Stage

 

There are some valid concerns, and not all of them lend themselves to simple solutions. In truth, many of the solutions will vary from one organization to the next. However, in many cases the solutions could be as simple as just choosing the right software platform. Finding a platform that eases your concerns about interoperability can also help ease your concerns about whether or not your staff can handle the change, as there will be no need to replace equipment. Likewise, a platform that can be integrated seamlessly into your current operations to help improve efficiency and implement optimization strategies will also make it much easier to demonstrate ROI.

B-Scada has released a new whitepaper on choosing the right IoT platform for your project. If you’re thinking about taking that leap into the IoT, it’s well worth the read.

Read It Now

Is That SCADA or IoT?

Clearly, SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) and IoT (Internet of Things) are very different things, right? We typically don’t create new terms to describe things for which we already have terms, so yes. They are different, but maybe not as far removed from one another as we may think. As revolutionary as the end results may be, the truth is that the IoT is just a new name for a bunch of old ideas. In fact, in some ways the IoT is really just a natural extension and evolution of SCADA. It is SCADA that has burst free from its industrial trappings to embrace entire cities, reaching out over our existing internet infrastructure to spread like a skin over the surface of our planet, bringing people, objects, and systems into an intelligent network of real-time communication and control.

Not entirely unlike a SCADA system – which can include PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers), HMI (Human Machine Interface) screens, database servers, large amounts of cables and wires, and some sort of software to bring all of these things together, an IoT system is also composed of several different technologies working together. That is to say you can’t just walk in to the electronics section of your local department store, locate the box labelled “IoT” and carry it up to the counter to check out.

It also means that your IoT solution may not resemble your neighbor’s IoT solution. It may be composed of different parts performing different tasks. There is no such a thing as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ IoT solution. There are, however, some common characteristics that IoT solutions will share:

  • Data Access
    It’s obvious, but there has to be a way to get to the data we want to work with (i.e. sensors).
  • Communication
    We have to get the data from where it is to where we are using it – preferably along with the data from our other ‘things’.
  • Data Manipulation
    We have to turn that raw data into useful information. Typically, this means it will have to be manipulated in some way. This can be as simple as placing it in the right context or as complex as running it through a sophisticated algorithm.
  • Visualization
    Once we have accessed, shared, and manipulated our data, we have to make it available to the people who will use it. Even if it’s just going from one machine to another (M2M) to update a status or trigger some activity, we still need some kind of window into the process in order to make corrections or to ensure proper operation.

There could be any number of other elements to your IoT system – alarm notifications, workflow, etc. – but these four components are essential and will be recognized from one IoT system to the next. Coincidentally (or not so coincidentally), these are technologies that all cut their teeth in the world of SCADA.

The IoT is the Next Generation of SCADA

Again, In many ways the IoT is a natural extension and evolution of SCADA. It is SCADA that has grown beyond industry and seeped into our daily lives. The IoT is essentially SCADA plus the new technology that has evolved since SCADA was first devised. Just like how in the late 18th Century, steam power put a hook in all other industrial technology and pulled it forward into a new era, electric power did the same thing a century later. Several decades later, with the advent of microchips and computer technology, once again industry was swept forward into a new era by the gravity of a single revolutionary technology. As we sit here today, well aware of the revolutionary power of what we call the ‘internet’, we are now feeling that gravity once again pulling us toward a new era.