InVMA started working in the industrial IoT (IIoT) space in 2012, and today builds software and hardware that link connected things to a company’s systems and processes. InVMA says that it aims to do three things for its clients: create new revenue streams; enhance customer satisfaction; and improve operational efficiency.
Internet of Business spoke to Jon Hill, the company’s business development director, about why some IoT projects succeed and others fail, about monetising deployments, and about whether the IoT could lead to job losses in manufacturing.
Internet of Business: In your line of work you must see a lot of good ideas that need strategic help to succeed. In your view, what are the three main reasons that some IoT projects fail – and what can organisations do to make sure that doesn’t happen?
Jon Hill: “One: they focus on the ‘how’, and not the ‘why’. Before any IoT project begins there are key questions that should be – but often aren’t – asked. Such as, what is the problem we are trying to solve? How does this help our customers or help us service our customers better? Where is the value?
“Most people do a proof of concept to test the technology, but very few do a proof of value to test the business model.
“Two: they try a DIY project and can’t scale it. It’s amazing how many people think that IoT is just another application development. Wrong. It’s the bringing together of IT and operational technology (OT). Hardware, firmware, communications, certifications, security, rules, data, and then the application.
“We have been building IoT applications for six years now on the most complete platform on the market, ThingWorx, and we are still learning.
If your team is launching a DIY IoT project, especially if they are not using a recognised platform, then you are just spending money to solve problems that have already been solved and to create a solution that may not scale. Focus on what makes you different rather than becoming an expert in IoT.
“Three: they target a low launch cost. Working to a budget is sensible, but skimping and trying to save a few dollars per device at launch really isn’t. Cheap devices are unlikely to give you much room for adding features later and can often lead to technical challenges.
“If you can, use tried, tested, and ‘off the shelf’ equipment and an IoT platform in your first iteration, with plenty of headroom to add new features. This will give you the flexibility to pivot your product and provide your customers with an upgrade path in the future.”
Monetising the IoT
One of the key areas of IoT failure is being unable to monetise a project successfully. Why do you think this is?
“There are two mains reasons for that failure. The first is that they haven’t looked at the customer’s value. Often the focus is on what it means to their business and not to their customer.
“Or they focus on the technology and don’t think about, or even understand, that this new approach will mean that they need to change their service teams, their partner relationships, and so on. This means that the promise of the service does not match the outcome from the service.
“The second reason is usually to do with pricing and a lack of understanding of how to price for the IoT project. The costs associated with an IoT deployment are normally capex for the hardware and opex for the communications, hosting, and an application enablement platform.
“So, should the pricing include all of the costs in a simple capex model, where the customer pays up front for a set period? Or should it be a service-type opex contract, which requires financing – and potentially new billing engines? Not considering and testing this prior to launch is where most companies and projects fail.”
The IoT is creating huge changes in manufacturing, as companies realise the value of harnessing data and using it to improve processes. Does this inevitably mean job losses in the sector?
“The recent OECD report said that there is a significant risk to manufacturing jobs from automation, of which IoT forms a part.
I agree with the assessment that some jobs will be lost to automation. However, successful IoT projects will make companies more successful – and, hopefully, able to employ more people in other roles.”
“They will also realise improvements in the form of reduced energy and material usage, further increasing their competitive positions.
“And as with any technology development, other jobs will be created too. For example, companies like InVMA did not exist 10 years ago. The speed of change that the addition of Industrial IoT, additive manufacturing, and similar innovations brings will see new employment opportunities being created.”
InVMA are among the companies that offer an end-to-end IoT service. What particular benefits does this give organisations that want to explore IoT programmes?
“Any full-service offering enables companies to lower the risk of innovation and prove the value from applying the technology without the need to invest heavily.
“The main advantages are: direction – access to experienced advice from, in our case, ex-Big-Four consultants about the business models that work and the potential impact on a company, its market, people, and processes.
“Quality – using proven technology and platforms enables a company to innovate on what a customer finds important, knowing that the hygiene factors of security, scalability, and ongoing development are being provided as standard.
“Cost – using proven approaches and lessons learned from other implementations reduces the risk and cost of the deployment for customers. And finally, speed – avoiding re-inventing the wheel and the IoT platform reduces the time to market.”
Internet of Business says
Putting IoT and IIoT programmes under the general heading of ‘automation’ is an interesting argument, especially when it comes to jobs.
In the manufacturing sector, the metric appears to be 2.5 new, skilled jobs created within organisations for every 10 routine jobs automated (approximately). For example, the US automative sector acquired 60,000 robots in 2015-16. If each robot is capable of doing the jobs of 15 full-time workers – as some robotics companies claim – then that is the equivalent of automating 900,000 jobs. However, during that timescale the industry created 230,000 new roles.
Likewise, Amazon has probably automated faster than any company on the planet, and yet has created roughly 100,000 new human jobs in recent years as the company expands and tries new markets.
And of course, this does not include the many new companies that will appear and create new human employment opportunities as the IoT grows – as has happened with ecommerce and mobile applications. This is why some automation reports have suggested that the long-term employment impact will be neutral.
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