Introduction: Any implementation of the Internet of Things needs to have a commercial and a productivity-driven impact in order for it to be sustainable. This influences the conceptualization and the design of things and the systems they are embedded in, as well as how they're commissioned and deployed. The aim is to determine how to best improve processes with X amount of dollars. What would that look like? What would the proposal look like?
In any business case you need to satisfy the requirements of accountants. To get your capital expenditure request passed, you need to be able to produce a cost-benefit analysis. The benefit is both is a function (feature set) and associated performance targets, expressed in terms of how the things act as a force multiplier for staff and equipment. The cost covers development and deployment plus ongoing expenses.
The basic question is how to take and existing asset or some proposal and map that to an IOT system that is going to provide superior productivity but doesn't take an eternity to deploy and cost an excessive ammount to develop? A good way to think of this is in terms of the system's impact on people, process, and plant . If things can improve productivity at those levels, then you know that your IOT system’s design and deployment models have a good chance of being sustainable.
One strategy for improving productivity is to identify any general business rules and determine if these can be optimised using better sensing and control options. For example, procedures often require automatic changing of parts or consumables after a set period of time, based on average use. However, sensing the actual usage, performance or wear and tear, can enable operators to increase the time between replacements.
Beyond the utility of the product, key elements that influence a business case include:
- Power options: e.g. tradeoffs between longer battery life versus cost of periodic replacement. This will be affected by the accessibility of the thing and the quantity of them.
- Network requirements:
- Data handling:
- Performance: Accuracy of measurement may or may not be important, and this will affect sensor costs. Similarly, reliability of data messages getting through may or may not be important. In some contexts, the occasional missed reading may not affect the overall performance of the system.
- Size: Physical size and mass will affect design and unit cost. Miniturisation can cost more and increased mass may make affect functionality.
- User interface: The user interface can vary from web interfaces or smart phone apps through text messaging to custom screens. In some cases changing the user experience or providing input to human decision making is important. In other cases there may be no need for a user interface at all, particularly with "smart" system that make decision autonomously.
- Environmental requirements: Requirements for robustness and effectiveness of enclosures will vary with environmental conditions, including temperature range and exposure to water. Geography and spatial considerations will also affect a business case, as this can influence the choice of technologies and network topology. e.g. is line of sight possible? What is the density of structures in the environment?
- Installation and commissioning: For large scale deployments, ease of installation and commissioning is important.
Business planning IoT product, service or solution is very much a case by case issue. One of the key critical success factors is to accept this and to understand the commercial objectives, and also the technology limitations, so that a good compromise can be reached.
Over-specifying any aspect is likely to increase unit cost and risks making the project infeasible.
It is also important to avoid being fixated on specific implementation approaches before understanding what the options are. For example, many people automatically assume tracking solutions will require GPS but there are many other options.
Examples of productivity gains can be seen in our Case Studies:
- Business Strategy and Innovation Framework published by the Industrial Internet Consortium
Sources: Material on this page has primarily been sourced from the following:
- Presentation by Jon Eggins, Chief Operations Officer, Genesys Electronics Design; Systems Architect, Genesys Products titled Thing One and Thing Two – Myths, Philosophy and Engineering
- Presentation by Simon Blyth, CEO, LX Group titled Key success factors for IOT projects
Edited by Tim Kannegieter