As the vehicle for gathering smart data, exchanging it across company boundaries, and analyzing it, the Internet of Things (IoT) is driving digital transformation in the business world.
Sensors are everywhere nowadays – in heating systems, pedometers, cars, pumps, traffic lights, engines. This is partly because the price of these tiny electronic transmitters has fallen by 80 percent over the past four years. But it’s also down to the fact that more and more devices have become networked. Connectivity is practically ubiquitous, and companies are expecting increasingly big things from Big Data.
“To cater to these expectations, you need a digital backbone like SAP S/4HANA,” explains Nils Herzberg, co-lead Internet of Things (IoT) at SAP. He adds, “An IoT platform provides the essential nutrients for delivering added value.” Ultimately, this makes the Internet of Things a key element in implementing digitally driven business models – and so supports the digital transformation that companies are facing.
The following developments will have a major impact on the Internet of Things in 2016.
1. IoT Platforms Won’t “Just” Be Proprietary
A central IoT platform such as SAP HANA Cloud Platform doesn’t have to be constantly reinvented. User, security, and storage concepts, for example, can be used again and again. “We urgently need to improve the acceptance of these solutions,” Herzberg says. “It’s not just about gathering data – it’s also about connecting them intelligently.”
To give developers more technology options, SAP now supports the Cloud Foundry, a cloud-based open source development platform that was originally designed by a team from Google. “With Cloud Foundry, we get much better adoption than with proprietary SAP technology alone,” explains Herzberg, who is convinced that he can attract greater numbers of talented developers to SAP through various additional development environments and programming languages. Sustainable platforms must be capable of understanding and processing a wide range of horizontal sensor data.
2. Smart Networks Will Go Mainstream
Years ago, aircraft manufacturers and aerospace companies already showed how it was possible to exchange detailed information from bills of materials across organizations. The aerospace companies also benefitted from the smartification of individual components and the ability of aircraft turbines to transmit valuable information to the manufacturer. “But in the aerospace industry, this only happened because the law required it,” Herzberg explains. What was time-consuming and expensive back them has now gone mainstream. “Today, we’re considering scenarios that we could only have dreamed about in the past,” Herzberg adds. If even coffeemaker manufacturers now send data about the state of their equipment to their support centers, we can assume that the market is ready for similar solutions to be brought to the masses.
SAP Asset Intelligence Network will make it possible for manufacturers to manage information about machines and equipment centrally and make this information available to selected parties as well as to gain insights into operating data. This then frees up the machine owners to concentrate on their core business. Because machines are registered with and hooked up to the manufacturer, individual information about maintenance can be provided and parts can be procured from a single source.
3. Smarter Than Ever – The Selection of Big Data
Increasingly, the trick will be not to record all manner of data, but to capture only the data you need. To filter it, aggregate it, analyze it, and only then to write it to a database is the most important task that lies ahead. Herzberg is convinced that the demands on data selection will increase. A smart data streaming option can already be deployed on premise and, according to Herzberg, we can expect similar services to be available in the cloud soon.
4. Software with a Fun Factor
Anyone who has ever uploaded personal fitness data to an online platform knows that you can track your own performance over the course of weeks and months, while also comparing yourself with other people in your age group and exchanging experiences. Thanks to a digital platform, sport gains an extra fun factor. This will become increasingly important in the IoT environment, too. Scoring points, getting likes, and winning prizes are concepts that the SAP HANA Cloud Platform gamification services will bring to companies. Herzberg explains, “A platform must offer services that enable customers to progress.”
5. Standard Services Make IoT Capabilities Easier to Deploy
Customers don’t want to have to do a whole lot of additional programming to take advantage of IoT capabilities. Because a number of processes and scenarios repeat themselves, modules and services already exist that can be deployed separately as standard and used without any prior effort. It will be possible to furnish the “things” used with geospatial information, involve service technicians, display sensor information, and trigger alarms if preset parameters are exceeded.
In the course of next year, such standard services will be provided as part of SAP’s IoT application services. However, the goal in the end is to empower companies to develop their own services on the basis of their IoT platform. “And less and less programming work will be required,” Herzberg predicts. Ultimately, this constant addition of new services will play a part in platforms becoming ever more powerful.
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