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IoT Lab: Get Started with a Cloud Platform

November 9, 2015 by Andreas Schmitz

Want to connect platforms, digitize processes, and use sensor data? Carlo Velten, CEO of IT consultancy Crisp Research, advises companies to set up an IoT lab and deploy a cloud platform.

Q: Imagine you are face-to-face with a company’s managing director who wants to know how to approach the subject of the Internet of Things (IoT). What advice do you give?

A: The IoT will impact more or less everyone in the coming years. It’s important not to be intimidated and to make a start, because many things are less abstract and complex than they initially seem to be. I would advise the managing director to set up a small IoT lab, where two or three employees work on building the technical infrastructure. You need some memory capacity, databases, analysis systems, and modern development platforms – this is all the basic equipment that’s required for the IoT at the outset.

The next step involves identifying employees who have already given the subject some thought and can imagine a relevant use case or two. Ideally, services for the business departments should emerge gradually, one after the other, because the Internet of Things gains pace particularly through acceptance in the business departments.

What three factors must be met for the IoT to be successful in an enterprise?

First, it’s crucial for the management to back the Internet of Things. The strategic decision must have been taken to align sensor-supported processes and products with the company’s mission and to make investments in this area.

Second, you need to be able to rely on competent employees from innovation management or product development who will embrace the topic and drive it in the organization. My suggestion would be to simply get started on one specific project, and then develop activities successively within the framework of an IoT lab. It’s important to then share the experiences and successes on a broad basis in the company, and to discuss them. After all, the good ideas for IoT-based innovations grow from the bottom up in the various departments and units.

Third, the company’s IT landscape must be enabled for the development and operation of IoT workloads and IoT-based products. You need special memory and computing capacity for log and sensor data; analysis systems and databases are required for real-time processing; and visualization tools are necessary, too. What’s more, these systems must be highly scalable, because you can’t predict how popular each of the services will be.

That’s why cloud platforms – such as SAP HANA Cloud Platform – play an important role in the IT back end when it comes to the implementation of IoT projects. Cloud-based platforms are also great because there are no hefty initial investment costs and the team can get to work right away and be productive.

Do companies have enough knowledge?

Companies won’t be able to avoid working across disciplines. Engineers, designers, and user experience experts in technical product development have to join forces with the software developers and IT architects. That’s the only way to create really innovative and customer-friendly IoT products and services. The learning curve is pretty steep at first. Right now, many companies are only just beginning to approach the subject. The technologies – from sensors through cloud-based analysis platforms – are unchartered territory for many users. IT service providers can be helpful in the initial phases – as can a company’s own IT department, of course, if it is already fit to tackle the Internet of Things.

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