Shining a light through the digital fog of IoT

SugarCRM’s Henning Ogberg questions if today’s enterprise tools, including CRM, are ready for the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution.

The recent CeBIT event in Hannover featured the usual mix of enthusiastic salespeople from business technology companies of all sizes, from start-ups to multinational giants, united by their singular aim of appearing distinct from their competition. If anything, the buyers at this year’s event seemed more discerning than in the past; less likely to be wowed simply because something that once didn’t exist now does and has a glossy leaflet or a QR code-linked video to celebrate.

However, even the most cynical delegate would have had to work hard to ignore the digital trends that pervaded CeBIT’s exhibition halls. Amongst the most notable of these was the fact that IoT is no longer the preserve of futurologists and early-adopters but is firmly, and perhaps irreversibly, a feature of the mass-market, corporate mainstream.

That’s not to suggest that many of the stand-out ideas on show lacked imagination, in fact many of them would have undoubtedly been first glimpsed amongst the pages of comic books and science-fiction novels.

Airwheel’s S9 “housekeeper” robot, packed with sensors and software and linked to the Cloud or Huawei’s “Connected City” street lighting solution which offers intelligent, reactive and individual controls are just two examples of our everyday spaces being transformed by the ever-accelerating rate of technological innovation.

Both of the examples above make use of IoT technology to provide an experience that is bespoke and entirely responsive to the needs of users. However, IoT is not simply about functionality and user-experience, the amount of data that such a network produces, if collected efficiently and, crucially, with permission, is beginning to stir the interest of the often slower-to-react business world.

New technologies bring new challenges but in the case of the Internet of Things these challenges are not, generally speaking, for the end user: even the most wilfully reluctant technology user, or business, can grasp the principle of controlling a device remotely (the TV remote being a usefully ubiquitous analogy). However, for the companies that employ IoT technologies within their offerings then the challenges can be legion.  The most obvious of these is also the one that’s in most pressing need of an elegant solution, namely a way of shining a light through the digital fog of a billion devices generating, sharing and saving data by the millisecond.

Terabytes of data are only useful in the business world if you’ve a means to make sense of them.

Related: Why businesses are waking up to the Internet of Things

CRM solutions can support the IoT

CRM solutions are of course an obvious, if not entirely comprehensive, part of this sense-making process and they can be very powerful when deployed in support of an IoT network. Imagine you make your living selling photocopiers and you’re plugged into a system that sends you an alert that toner’s low; you’re then primed to send a replacement cartridge even before your customer knows that they need it. This is frictionless commerce and also a frictionless relationship with your customer.  And friction in this context is nobody’s friend.

However, not every CRM solution is necessarily a match for the rigours of sense-making in the IoT world. Businesses relying purely on a fixed SaaS model are finding that they are ill-equipped to manage the required scales of data and performance. Perhaps IoT will be the anvil that breaks the camel’s back of the systems based on infrastructure created in the late 1990s?

Modern CRM solutions suffer far fewer of these challenges and are both nimble and powerful enough to thrive in a connected world. Sugar, for example, can run on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and features a scalable infrastructure and open tools enabling businesses to grow without incurring unnecessary costs. Companies can also use cheap storage matched with cheap processing power to give them a cost saving whilst enjoying the significant benefits of sophisticated CX provision.

In this age of the Internet of Things, the question businesses should therefore ask themselves is not “are we ready?” but “are our tools ready?” The right CRM solution can go a long way to answering this and enable businesses to exploit the fabulous potential of IoT as more than just a means of running a bath on the homebound commute but as an architecture to enable nothing short of a revolution in customer service.

Henning Ogberg, senior vice president & general manager EMEA, SugarCRM

Related: 5 reasons why the Internet of Things needs data analytics