The Voice of IoT. September. 2021

Digital Transformation is a journey which brings great benefit.

As a business leader, how many times have you heard “digitalize your business or die”? Digitalization has been a global trend for over twenty years of our new millennium. From communications and paperless transactions to how we consume news, go shopping and even learn new skills.
Emmanuel Mounier. Independant Consultant. EMR Consulting. France
Emmanuel Mounier
Digitalization is the digital transformation of society and the economy. It has spread to all types of business from startups to large petroleum companies, from your local bakery to the largest supermarket. Even very old professions such as farmers are now using elaborate farm management systems to be able to meet the needs of our digitalized society. We are in an age where the transformation from an industrial age which has been characterized by analogue technologies to an age where there is creativity and knowledge characterized by digital technologies leading to digital business innovation.
Now that we have decision management tools to analyze and predict any situation, the battle has moved to the next stage: precision, accuracy and real time input data used to feed the models in order for businesses to grow and thrive. This is where IoT has a major role to play.
Instead of using median data over a large scale, we can place “Things” at strategic points to feed our algorithms with accurate data and then improve the quality of the predictions, adjusting with precision to every small drift.
Years ago, when a farmer fertilized his fields, he set the quantity of fertilizer per square meter on his spreader and used the same value for the entire field. Today, the same spreader is able to adjust the quantity of fertilizer for each square meter in the field based on the analysis of the production yield collected during the last harvesting and some real time soil analysis. The result is much more efficient fertilization, saving tons of product and importantly, respecting the needs of the soil.

“There are tremendous benefits to be had from collecting precise, accurate and real time data, then transforming and processing it to create real business value. “

Therefore, as a business leader, are you asking yourself “how do I make my IoT journey successful?” What can be applied from previous experiences in order to build a successful IoT journey and project?
  • which data points do I need?
  • over what range does my data fluctuate?
  • how often should I collect it?
  • from where?
  • which sensor should I choose?
  • what is the most suitable connectivity technology for my needs?
  • what can I do with this new data?
Most projects come to a standstill at the end of the proof of concept (POC) stage, reaching the conclusion that the technical solution is working and suitable for the need of the project but it will be too costly to deploy on a larger scale.

This could be misinterpreted, that IoT is a luxury that only very few companies can afford. Don’t be misled! There are tremendous benefits to be had from collecting precise, accurate and real time data, then transforming and processing it to create real business value.

Whilst scientists are happy to improve the precision of their research by X%, a business will not be satisfied until this improvement has been translated into X% of benefits.

If we look further into the IoT projects which stopped after the POC, it appears that the targets of the POC were built on a “scientific approach”. That is aiming to solve technical challenges and to answer questions like “Am I getting the right data with the right precision into my algorithm?”, “Is my connectivity solution reliable enough? “or “Am I using the right sensor?”. These are all valuable and legitimate questions that will need to be answered somewhere along the line of the project, but none of them will solve the question of “How will this new technology fit into my business model and help generate more profits?”

Without a clear answer, the project will stall, frustrating those who have invested time, energy and money in the attempt.

Consider an alternative example. Your business decides to purchase a truck in order to fulfill your deliveries yourself. Would you establish a POC to investigate the performance of the truck, its energy consumption, cost of replacement parts, maintenance intervals as well as train staff to maintain and repair the vehicle? Of course not. You trust your vehicle supplier as a partner who acted as a trusted consultant (not always independent!) to recommend the right truck. Your business will be more interested in, how the new truck will fit into your new delivery business model to help you to generate revenue and hence more profits.

Apply the same reasoning to your choice of IoT solution, you would also focus on what you know - your core business: “What information am I missing to better understand my customers’ needs?”, “How can I optimize my inventory to anticipate the needs of my customers?” “How much savings can I achieve by better matching inventory to customer’s needs?” “What additional value or services can I create if I have a better understanding of my customer’s needs?” By answering questions like these, you will be able to answer the ultimate question “what are the costs vs benefits of my IoT project?”.

“digital transformation of your company is a journey which can be postponed but cannot be avoided if your business is to remain competitive.”

In the IoT world today, technology is no longer a limitation, therefore, the choice of technology should not be made too early in the IoT process. Nowadays, there are a lot of existing solutions and you will probably find one that suits all your needs if your business model accepts some compromises. Moving towards a specific solution is possible but much more costly and the time spent building this new solution may affect your competitive advantages.

On the way to digitally transforming your business, there will be pitfalls to avoid, but nothing surprising, using our truck example as a comparison:
  • Define your needs and the expected benefits from the solution before making a technology choice. Choosing the brand and type of engine for your truck before defining what you want your truck to do, makes little sense. Once you know your expectations, requirements and your budget capacity, you can refer to an expert to lead you through the available technologies.
  • Do not be misled into thinking your needs are so unique that you will need to build your own solution from scratch. There are a lot of different trucks already tried and tested in the market. It’s highly unlikely your business will need a bespoke solution designed from scratch.
  • Avoid prematurely training your teams on a wide variety of IoT technology. Your truck driver doesn’t necessarily need to be an expert on diesel/petrol/electric engines to be able to drive your truck. Your solution choice will determine what training you need to engage, with whom and when.
  • Lever the POC as much as possible to validate the added value and benefits that can be brought to your business. Review which delivery routes your truck will need to overcome, what size loads, materials and goods are you considering to deliver? Which new materials or goods are you considering to deliver? How much more revenue will it bring if you have the right truck? Whether the truck has an alloy gearbox and limited slip locking differentials is superfluous if you don’t yet know what business value you are trying to generate.
  • Don’t overlook the value of an expert and/or consultants. Lewis Hamilton is not an engineer, but he is an expert in F1 car racing and is able to quickly and accurately identify issues, suggest solutions engage with all levels of his ecosystem using correct industry terminology which – collectively - produces positive outputs, avoids pitfalls and identifies focus areas. End result, his F1 team wins races.
In summary, digital transformation of your company is a journey which can be postponed but cannot be avoided if your business is to remain competitive.

Understanding what data points your business needs and what you wish to do with that data will determine which IoT technology choices you take, which solution is best, what partners you wish to work with and what level of knowledge transfer you will need.

The journey can be fraught with pitfalls and confusion, but it doesn’t need to be. With the guidance of experts using the correct tools and planning, your digital transformation objectives, based on desired added-value and benefits, can be tested in controlled POC’s and the results analyzed and validated.
As illustrated in our truck example, an IoT expert can help you to:
  • understand what IoT can do (or not do).
  • assist in choosing the correct technology based on your business defined needs.
  • find the most suitable solution available on the market.
  • bring together the right people at the right time.
  • own the oversight of your digitization journey until its successful conclusion.
  • ensure each facet of the journey is correctly considered (POC, deployment, commercial…).
Take the decision to keep your business competitive and gain the freedom to explore new business options and revenue possibilities. Follow these points to embrace your digital transformation without fear and embark on your own IoT journey towards future success.

Biography


As a Telecommunications Engineer, Emmanuel Mounier gained significant experience in France and abroad working in the field of radio & fibre-optic transmission, network architecture and deployment. For as long as he can remember Emmanuel has had a passion for nature and farm tractors. His fondest memories are from his uncle’s farm where he gladly spent his school holidays. In 2003 a former university colleague offered him the opportunity to apply his passion and knowledge to an innovative project focused on farm animals. Combining his love of nature with technology, he didn't hesitate and MEDRIA Technologies was born. Today, as a consultant specializing in the Internet of Things, Emmanuel uses his wealth of experience and his broad contact portfolio amassed over the years in order to help his clients understand new technologies and make the right choices for their companies. Along with his MA in biomedical instrumentation, Emmanuel holds an Engineering Degree in Telecommunications from Telecom Bretagne (Brest).

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