The Untold Story of IoT in Business: Three Real-World Examples

IoT may be touted as the biggest, baddest digital disruptor, but it’s nothing without mobile connectivity.

Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 20.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide by 2020. However, up to 25 percent of IoT scenarios will involve a mobile connection to a device. Many experts believe this will unleash a dynamic rush of data powering new business models with opportunities to overjoy consumers, and generate services revenue for both upstart and established companies.

Sell Holes, Not Drills

Russ Green, general manager of Communications Products and Technology at SAP Digital Interconnect, said innovations like mobile and IoT are giving organizations the ability to dematerialize aspects of managing assets like a drill, and manage them virtually. SAP is getting significant interest from companies exploring IoT-based applications outside a controlled environment like using mobile to transmit data from connected cars, as well as monitoring and managing nomadic devices such as industrial tools or agricultural-based connected equipment. Cellular networks are the most flexible way to deliver the reliable wireless connectivity these use cases require.

“Tool manufacturers are thinking of new business models, whereby they can sell productivity and not the drill,” he said. “Mobile is also applicable in some consumer goods use cases for IoT where you cannot rely on the end consumer being savvy enough to configure a machine or refrigerator as their Wi-Fi networks change. You need that guaranteed connectivity.”

#IoT is nothing without mobile

SAP is working on a POC with a European-based tool manufacturer to track how its tools perform from where they are at any given moment. Instead of selling an industrial drill for thousands of dollars or leasing it by the month, the objective is to provide an outcome-based service.

“The manufacturer can charge per hole drilled within a specified timeframe. Every time a hole is drilled, how long it took, the chuck size, and other information can be transmitted back in real-time to the manufacturer’s backend system,” said Green. “Some customers pay per hour, others pay per hole drilled, while others lease a set of tools to sub-accounts that resell the service. At any time, the manufacturer can see when the agreed-upon threshold of usage is exceeded and disable the machine.”

Move Over Uber

One cutting-edge POC promises to control, manage and monitor autonomous taxis using IoT connectivity.

“You don’t want autonomous cars to be reliant on a network connection,” said Green. “But with a taxi service, you have to notify the car when there’s a passenger pick-up or cancellation. Our service can help the taxi company deal with multiple operators and sub-accounts, and always adhere to local regulations.”

In another transportation-related example, a North American-based manufacturer is testing IoT and mobile connectivity to manage a fleet of connected cars. They want to monitor engine performance, capturing car and driver-related data that reflects daily wear and tear, fluid levels and other information, transmitting it back to the maintenance center. The objective is to catch unexpected problems, alert drivers or fleet managers that the car requires maintenance, and automatically schedule service. They can also monitor driver behavior, providing remediation such as updated engine maintenance or even driver education. The first use case is monitoring a test fleet of vehicles in North America and Japan.

“We got them up and running in a single 45-minute call, without ever visiting the customer’s site,” said Green. “We shipped them the SAP SIM cards and had a call to explain how the APIs worked. They liked our business model, which was similar to wireless family plan subscriptions, except that our cards are cross-border for uninterrupted international coverage. They have a single SIM card that encompasses multiple operators worldwide, making it easy to meet local regulatory and network requirements, wherever the car might be.”

Green added that “SAP IoT Connect 365 has coverage in 96 countries, and we are constantly expanding.”

APIs, Scalability, Security are Must-Haves

Getting valuable data securely from a company’s physical asset, be it a self-driving taxi, connected car or power tool, remains a serious concern for many customers. Green said a survey SAP conducted at Mobile World Congress earlier this year found the top three challenges for companies around IoT were subscription costs and roaming complexities, scalability and management, and security.

“To meet scalability requirements, absolutely everything you do with that device from enabling it to troubleshooting and managing billing must be programmable so it can be done through APIs,” said Green. “Security is just as important. Companies have to make sure they have full control over the end-to-end security from the device to the enterprise application to the actual network.”

In the race to innovate with IoT, mobile remains among the technologies that will get companies over the finish line.

Follow me @smgaler

Top image via Shutterstock.