SAP shifts gears of IoT into business ERP
SAP engineers gears of IoT into business ERP
SAP stands at Sapphire Now 2017 conference & exhibition. Image Source: Adrian Bridgwater

SAP shifts gears of IoT into business ERP

German enterprise software giant SAP has used its Sapphire Now 2017 conference in Orlando to detail a new approach to enterprise resource planning (ERP) that embraces core data types and information layers emanating from the IoT and beyond.

The big news tabled at Sapphire Now 2017 was the ‘new’ iteration of the SAP Leonardo software offering. Described as a platform (rather than a mere product) in its own right, SAP Leonardo as a brand has already existed as an IoT technology.

In something of a major overload update, the firm has now promoted Leonardo as a wider digital software layer, capable of what it calls ‘differentiating software capabilities’. These differentiation functions mean that Leonardo can start to plug new data streams and data sets into the core SAP ERP engine. Those new data types will come in the form of machine learning controls, IoT data, big data analytics as well as blockchain on SAP’s own cloud platform.

“New systems of intelligence are emerging through embedded artificial intelligence, machine learning, analytics, IoT, big data and blockchain,” said Leonardo lead Mala Anand.

The company says that it will bring in its expertise in ‘design thinking services’ to help customers solve complex problems. The firm’s SAP Leonardo Innovation Services are aligned to specific use cases, by industry.

Industry accelerators

“Industry accelerator packages for SAP Leonardo will focus on use cases for specific industries that are a powerful differentiator for SAP. Customers will not have to assemble pieces and parts to solve a business problem. We will use included services that tailor pre-defined software elements for the specific customer implementation. Everything will come at a pre-defined price and our engagement is time-bound, so every customer has an accelerated time-to-value,” said SAP’s Anand.

SAP’s IoT capabilities already include brands such as SAP Connected Goods for the retail industry, which allows companies in this space to connect, monitor and control a large number of customer-facing products – such as beverage coolers, freezers, coffee makers and vending machines. The software can connect IoT devices to back-end systems, trigger alerts and provide so-called ‘actionable insight’ into product usage patterns, service and quality.

Also in the IoT space is SAP Vehicle Insights. This area of the company’s portfolio works to monitor live vehicle conditions and run connected car analytics, while also integrating with automotive telematics data. The cloud-based app can help collect, map, store and analyze automobile sensor data in real time for services organizations targeting the automotive management market.

Dong: SAP strong, not wrong

Tom Dong, vice president of product marketing at enterprise information management (EIM) company OpenText spoke to Internet of Business in connection with this story. “With companies having access to more data than ever, leveraging tools like artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to gain insights from this influx of data is a focus for many companies,” he said.

Dong continued, “The most impactful business insights can often be buried in data which – without the latest technologies – organizations might never see. The launch of SAP Leonardo shows that the company understands that capturing value from this data is one of the biggest opportunities and challenges facing many businesses.”

To help the adoption process here, the company has announced a new network of SAP Leonardo global design centers. These ‘showcase’ offices will provide learning, consultancy and technical tuition services. The first locations are New York, Paris, Bangalore and Sao Leopoldo in Brazil and all are due to open in the next three months, with further locations coming later.

Read more: Microsoft pushes IoT as a service to enterprises

Vorsprung durch Technik-takeaway

As a takeaway here then, how should we regard SAP’s latest positioning?

Is this a software behemoth carefully precision-tooling new data IoT dataset and workflow capabilities into its core cloud-delivered internal combustion engine with German engineering excellence and efficiency?

Or perhaps, is this a good degree of base-layer software engineering, hyped up with just a little more fancy marketing, brand-name changes and conference showmanship than the actual news deserves?

Obviously, it’s kind of both. Thankfully, it is rather more of the former than the latter. But some balance is needed in summary because SAP’s product set is growing ever bigger. While plenty of the other big IT vendors play in a similar space to SAP, the firm is resolutely firm on its claim that no other partner or competitor is coming to market with its particular approach to complete systems integration and ‘unique’ design on SAP HANA specifically engineered for the Intel chipset.

Vorsprung durch Technik then? Yes, a simplified data model allows extensions to the SAP cloud platform like this to happen and it is now the ‘SAP family of systems’, so let’s hope the firm can play happy families for as long as it envisages.

Read more: 7 in 10 enterprises worldwide now collecting IoT data