Businesses increasingly understand the opportunities behind the Internet of Things (IoT), but are still to develop the appropriate business models, says IBM’s Andy Stanford-Clark.
Stanford-Clark is a distinguished engineer responsible for IoT at Big Blue and was speaking at the Internet of Things Forum in Cambridge today, where he detailed everything from the capabilities of Watson IoT, the potential of smart buildings and predictive and cognitive analytics, to using IoT in healthcare to aid vulnerable members of society.
But it was arguably on IoT business models he was most enlightening, saying that a number of early adopters of IoT are fast-tracking such technologies, because they see the value of monitoring or tracking things in the field. However, these same companies are not yet changing their business models in turn.
“Quite often they don’t understand the business model,” he said, citing one factory which looked to add sensors to their products before establishing a clear ROI of doing so or considering if they could drive new revenues models by doing this. Instead, the IBM exec added that most firms were “turning this stuff on” just so to have the capability for business change at a later date.
He went onto add: “On business models at the moment, we’re seeing predictive analytics [being used] on the operations side, so literally it’s just about keeping existing stuff running.”
He said that in future this could move to being less reactive, with companies using IoT to schedule maintenance and to order parts in advance of them breaking down. This would, he said, save companies huge amounts of money.
Stanford-Clark ponders whether this might lead to the revival of the rental market, where people pay monthly to maintain devices, although some in the audience suggested that this wouldn’t be attractive for washing machines specifically.
Nonetheless, he is adamant that all companies now see the opportunities with IoT.
“I get calls every week from banks and insurance companies, healthcare providers, saying ‘I’ve heard about IoT how does it apply to my industry?’ That, to me, means there is a fundamental change going on, rather than just focused on technology industries that may have had SCADA systems in the past.”
It was an interesting point picked by organiser Mark Littlewood, who added: “What’s incredible to me about IoT is a lot of people get swept away with the technology and the detail…We as industry need to think about problem solving, not technology.
Stanford-Clark detailed IBM’s work with Kone on smarter buildings, as well as its work with IoT in healthcare.
IoT in healthcare
And it is in healthcare where IBM are arguably most enthusiastic. Stanford-Clark outlined how he and IBM worked on the the Chale Community Project to monitor energy usage for certain households using solar panels, sensors and IBM data analytics. Stanford-Clark is himself a resident of Chale.
That project led onto another called CurrentCare, a telecare and energy monitoring system for the assisted living and dementia markets.
These sensors monitor everything including electricity, water, motion, temperature and pressure, down to whether a toilet has been flushed or a window opened. This solution, combined with an Android device and cloud computing, enables carers and relatives to get text or tweet alerts when certain tasks have or haven’t happened.
He did note some challenges with the project however, including privacy for vulnerable members of society in light of Data Protection Act and extensive T&Cs from technology vendors.