A great guest post by Dermot O’Connell, Vice President, OEM and IOT solutions, Dell EMEA

The world is undergoing a change so significant that many people believe it to be the beginning of the next industrial revolution. Whereas the first wave of the internet has connected nearly half of the world’s people – enhancing communication, knowledge and opportunity, so the promise of the IoT (Internet of Things) is to bring devices on the net too.

Imagine a factory today, with a variety of complex and highly functional ‘operational technologies’ working in silos. Examples include a robotic arm, a warehouse loading system, industrial control or simply the air conditioning. Traditionally, you would have had multiple systems running and while each may individually have a sophisticated control system, you wouldn’t have an overview of how well they’re working together. Here, the IoT changes the game – now even operational technologies can be fitted with low power sensors connected back to a Public or Hybrid cloud in order to feed rich data back to managers. It’s this capability that is causing many to assert we are at the beginning of the next industrial revolution and with experts from Gartner predicting 25 billion devices will be online by 2020, it certainly seems possible. But are people focusing attention in the right areas? From my perspective, no, most aren’t.

All too often I encounter organisations looking to jump into the IoT head-first, “We have a company full of devices and machines. Let’s connect them all!” is a sentiment I come across regularly. But this really misses the value IoT can deliver to a business. Simply adorning your machines with low power IoT sensors won’t actually improve your business and it will be challenging to find a business case for such an approach. What’s even more important is being able to capture, store and analyse the rich data flows generated by the connected machines. It’s the data analysis that means a company can answer questions such as:

    • Is the utilisation of the various machines in our workflow optimised for capacity, asset management and ROI?
    • Is this building’s environmental control operating optimally and if not what tangible savings could we make?
    • How are changes downstream in our production line impacting other areas of production?

In my view, far too much attention is focused on getting the ‘Things’ connected and not enough time is spent understanding the data insights that will actually drive the business forward.  At Dell, we advise our customers to build on the equipment and data they already have and leveraging their current technology investments, to quickly and securely enable analytics-driven action. We encourage our customers to architect for analytics, think security first and take advantage of choice and flexibility.

Any IoT back-end set-up should be open, scalable and able to handle real-time data flows as standard. From there you can prove the value and build out iteratively in order to connect ever more operational systems.

It was Aristotle that once said ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’, and that’s very much what the IoT can help companies to achieve. By knitting together data streams and analysing them at scale a whole host of industries can transform what they do and how they do it. It even opens the door to Artificial Intelligence and automated decision making. So when you’re advocating for IoT try to keep a firm view of the data in mind and what it can do for you.

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