Focusing on the Whys of Internet of Things

If you have been watching the technology media over the last few quarters you would have been hard-pressed to miss all the noise about the Internet of Things (or IoT for those with a fondness for acronyms).

Wikipedia defines the Internet of Things as:

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices within the existing Internet infrastructure.

Most of the major technology vendors are racing to market with offerings which aim to help organisations cope with and intelligently respond to the volume of data that IoT scenarios can potentially produce, but before you undertake your first IoT project it might be worth pausing to understand the difference between the components of IoT and an IoT strategy.

When you deliver an IoT solution, there are going to be a bunch of technical elements.

  1. New or existing embedded systems.
  2. Connectivity between devices and other systems.
  3. Data aggregation, visualisation and insight.
  4. Autonomous or semi-autonomous response to incoming events.

These are the things that technology vendors can help you with - it's the what. What I want to encourage organisations going down this path to do however is spend a little bit of time thinking about the why.

Will the IoT investment you are going to make deliver a competitive advantage, improve efficiency, reduce costs, increase productivity, enhance customer experience or some combination of the above?

If you start with technology you can sometimes lose sight of the people and processes that these interconnected things will impact. My recommendations for organisations starting down this path are as follows:

  1. Start small; an Internet of Things is not something you go out and buy, it is an emergent property which is the result of a number of successful integration projects.
  2. Remember the people; this is true of any technology project, but if you forget the people that are impacted by any new project you are destined to fail.
  3. Focus on the whys; if you can't tie the project to some of the whys that I mentioned above they maybe it isn't the right project.
  4. Measure and iterate; because you are focusing on the whys it should be possible to measure the outcomes of your project. Take advantage of the fact that you are starting small to make corrections as you go.

One final thought I would like to share is that the Internet of Things is not really anything new - it really represents a moment in time where our ability to hook stuff together is reaching a critical mass. I think it is a trend that has been in motion for quite some time and I don't think it is going to stop. The question is - what do we tackle first and where can the biggest benefits be realised?