The IoT is enabling the secure tracking of mobile assets throughout the supply chain. Knowing where your assets are at any given time or place is critical to transforming business operations – particularly reducing theft and loss, saving time and money and improving operational efficiency.
But plugging into the IoT isn’t simple. It can be done effectively and efficiently, or it can become a logistical nightmare, creating a complex and expensive deployment that negates any benefit. To get the most out of the IoT, businesses should consider 10 key points/questions before initiating the IoT deployment process for asset tracking.
Retrofitting your business so that it’s IoT-compatible means elevating your core competencies in very specific ways. There will be new applications to support, new technical and physical infrastructure to add and new skillsets to hire and manage. You’ll have whole new metrics for success, and as you start, you must have a definition of what constitutes success. Industry conferences, resources and white papers can help you understand not just what the IoT is, but what elements are needed for your business to successfully deploy it. Sierra Wireless and its partners can also help you identify potential ROI that you can extract by introducing the IoT into your new product strategy.
Too many industries focus on proof of concept for IoT deployment without considering scalability. Consider scalability from the outset and make choices that will allow you to move from design to prototype to wide-scale deployment in a smooth, expedient manner. For example, you can start small with the FX30 programmable IoT gateway and Legato® open source Linux platform and then scale with WP series embedded modules and Legato as volumes increase.
We all know that cybersecurity is increasingly important, but when you become an IoT service provider, it is literally what protects your business. Your data, and that of your customer, is dependent upon thinking about security holistically: from the end-user application to the device, through the network connection, to the cloud and then to enterprise systems.
We sometimes say, “plug into the IoT,” but it obviously isn’t that simple. Depending on your needs, location, the kind of data you use and the use case you’re trying to address, there are many different connectivity options. Will you use wired or wireless connectivity? If wireless, will you use Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or cellular? With the rise of standardized LPWA networks, many companies are turning to cellular, which is ubiquitous, standardized, secure, reliable and cost-effective.
In a very real way, you are now a data collection and analytics business. The IoT can help you understand your customers, your products and how the two work together in the real world. You need to ask yourself how you will capture, store and analyze this data. Your solution can be designed and deployed to handle all this critical data in the cloud, in an on-premises system or using a hybrid model. The data integration component has to take into account any necessary protocol translations, security and the interface for the data.
Your existing systems will need to be integrated with your IoT application because it will unify your existing processes. With diverse platforms, protocols and large numbers of APIs, combined with evolving standards, IoT system integration and testing may pose an enormous challenge. Each component will require integration for the data to flow, and each integration has the potential to create new challenges for deployment. For better utilization of the systems specified in IoT deployment, all the components must communicate efficiently and reliably.
It can take years, and cost a fortune, to add wireless connectivity, integrate disparate systems and develop new applications when working by yourself. A partner like Sierra Wireless and its ecosystem will help you work quickly through your connectivity needs and put together a proof of concept and small trials. Starting with open source hardware and software that can be easily integrated with your existing systems and with wired or wireless modules is also an option. You should focus on what you do best. The key is to leverage IoT partners to take on most of the integration and connectivity efforts, while you focus on building a great application.
As mentioned above, using open source hardware and software can result in a more rapid time-to-market while maintaining security. Built-in global connectivity modules allow you to scale across countries by having operator-agnostic networking systems. Before IoT deployment, you should be sure to remove as many pre-existing obstacles as possible.
Start by building your team. Select your vendors carefully, and make sure they can work together. Taking the multi-vendor approach can create overhead and increase the total cost of ownership. But simplifying the approach with an end-to-end connectivity provider gives you flexibility, efficiency and a simplified structure. Simply put, there are fewer moving pieces and fewer agendas. Simplifying your vendor structure means being able to align your future goals with theirs.
You might be saying, “plugging into the IoT is how I’m preparing for the future.” But technology changes rapidly, in ways that legacy industrial systems aren’t always prepared to handle. Innovation, agility and speed are the keys to success. The one thing we know for sure is that things will change. Leaders will continue to incorporate new technology at the same time as dealing with legacy and obsolescence issues.
A thorough consideration of these 10 key issues will help you develop an understanding of what your business needs and how you can set yourself up for growth. It positions you to obtain the right tools to prototype, scale and rapidly develop a successful IoT strategy. Partnering with a company that understands your IoT needs can help you navigate these issues.
Preparing for that future begins today. Industries need to work with partners who can provide a roadmap for tomorrow, one that can navigate changes, expand the business and allow you to become a service provider, while never losing site of your core competencies. It’s still your business. It’s still making the products that you make the best. It just means adapting to a new world, understanding how to evolve and becoming connected in the most efficient, seamless and cohesive manner possible. Start with Sierra to find out how.
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