IoT and Asset Management: An interdependent relationship?
The Internet of Things is here, and now the challenge for organizations is to figure out how to drive value from it, and how to get started. But I’ve noticed one interesting area of interdependence between IoT and the wider IT landscape recently. I’ve been giving it some thought, because I suspect that it could shine a light on a vital but sometimes overlooked aspect of IoT adoption. Let me explain.
Recently, someone from a major enterprise told me, “We don’t really do formal enterprise AM [asset management] here”. And I started to wonder, in IoT terms, how do you harness its value without asset management? I think the answer is, you don’t. IoT needs EAM, and vice-versa. Without that interdependence, only minimal value can be derived.
For example, imagine you’re a large corporation with an estate of offices that house your business. As an asset, these offices and all they contain require management and maintenance. Asset management systems and processes might be in place, and these help you stay on top of maintenance and to control cost. Now layer on IoT, with sensors and the resulting data that can be connected to a number of systems, and tap into a rich seam of value. IoT’s ability to capture real-time sensor data on everything from energy consumption to, say, a problem with the ventilation system or the redundancy of certain equipment that is now rarely used, can be connected to the EAM system and enable sound decisions to be made, there and then, as well as in the longer term.
Think about adding further data – e.g. about the number of people using your building (footfall for retail, workers for office buildings…). This is just one of the many examples where IoT helps to ensure that your buildings are no longer dead assets.
But what if the set up wasn’t there? What if you didn’t really ‘do’ EAM? What then? Well, you could still implement sensors, but without a purpose for that data and a connected foundation from which it can be used, that’s not really IoT. That’s siloed data, from which it’s going to be awfully hard to derive value. It’s a little like attempting to build a house without solid foundations.
Siemens Building Technologies uses Maximo as the AM foundations for running their equipment in customers’ buildings. Maximo offers a solid framework with six modules in service-oriented architecture that allows enterprises to manage not just assets, but also work on those assets, contracts relating to them, inventory, procurement and workforce. Add sensors to the assets being managed and you bring valuable data to an already robust set of processes and workflows. In this respect, we can see IoT enhancing AM already—and AM giving IoT a clear role, in turn.
So, now you have plenty of new data. How do you make it work harder for the enterprise? How do you join the dots? Enter tools like Watson Analytics from IBM, that can analyze structured as well as unstructured data (think warranty contracts…), automate predictive analytics and present outcomes to you in a clear and actionable way. Now, we’re seeing IoT and EAM come together as a major business enabler. With real-time data being captured, analyzed and applied to the organization’s existing asset landscape, there is real scope for not only driving efficiency and cutting expenditure, but for spotting trends and opportunities for innovation, too.
But the thing that would help bridge IoT and EAM once all this is in place is a customized app that would allow the organization in question to manage the data and insights they’re gaining about their assets in a flexible and practical way. With actionable insights at your fingertips, this becomes more than simply managing assets—it’s about sweating your assets to gain maximum value, seize opportunities and evolve the portfolio.
To come back to the organizations that don’t have a specific AM approach or solution, I’d say that these organizations are the ones that cannot gain anywhere near as much value from IoT as those that do. The technologies are there—from Maximo for AM, to Cognos and SPSS for statistics, and Watson for insights into unstructured data, and development platforms like Bluemix from IBM for speedy development of customized apps. So what are they waiting for?
Well, for many, it’s a lack of holistic vision, or the joined up thinking that is required to link together seemingly disparate business issues. To some degree, that’s to be expected, because IoT is a game-changer in the truest sense. With IoT, everything really is connected, even if this was unthinkable in the past. And when you have a large number of legacy systems and devices, it can be hard to conceive of how these can be ‘tamed’ and connected in such a way that they speak the same language. Our colleagues at Sogeti HighTech have developed their smartEngine solution architecture to meet this challenge and others, allowing organizations to get accurate and reliable heterogeneous data from machines and their components. Then, the smartEngine SDK (software developer kit) allows for all-important customization, where plugins can easily be created for specific devices, all according to what’s needed in a particular instance.
IoT looks set to be a focus for IBM’s forthcoming InterConnect2016 (Las Vegas, 21-25 February), where we’ll be showcasing our work with these powerful enabling technologies. It’s a given that IoT offers a whole wealth of opportunities to businesses, but I’d say that perhaps the most unexpected—yet valuable—opportunity it offers is the chance to look afresh at what your organization does and doesn’t do, and to consider whether, in an IoT world, that will still pass muster.