Advancing the industry
The Internet of Things will be successful because so many players from across different industries are coming together in order to solve big challenges
"Innovation is rife, and innovation is now."
That's the view of Irfan Khan, CTO at SAP, who headed the software giant's efforts at the first Internet of Things Exhibition in Dubai last month. Speaking on how he viewed the Middle Eastern market in the context of Internet of Things (IoT) adoption, he hardly minced his words. He said that true innovation was at play in this region, and that SAP wanted to be a part of that.
"Take, for example, horse racing. This is the capital of the world in terms of horse racing, and lots of innovation goes on in this region, in terms of the health of the horses, the way of looking at investments in the right type of culture to drive innovation around solutions that can be helpful for that industry," he said.
"All the way through to property, and speculating in terms of where big developments should happen, and what types of developments should happen. All of this is possible now because people are embracing the technology and the infrastructure that is being laid is really much more conducive to that happening."
Khan added that the intelligent collection of information in the Middle East is allowing for new types of innovation that leverage IoT-like technologies. He said that organisations in the Middle East are now viewing next-gen technological trends like the IoT as drivers for competitive advantage. He added that SAP has already seen some verticals innovating with these emerging technologies.
In terms of SAP's participation at IoTX, Khan said that the vendor was looking to establish its credentials as a platform provider for innovations that utilise IoT technologies. He said that, with the vendor's HANA in-memory computing platform, businesses could glean greater value from connected sensors and the information that they return back to the business.
"What we're looking to do is establish our credentials as a platform provider, as an innovator who has actually got lots of solutions and infrastructure already available, and then thirdly start working on those co-innovation opportunities. We're working on plans and opportunities that work on initiatives like smart cities, working on the healthcare investments going on in the region, trying to work in terms of figuring out where healthcare needs to be at the 2020 horizon," he said.
A software company, SAP is not as concerned with the infrastructure layer of the IoT as some other vendors are. However, according to Khan, the company is well-placed to provide value out of the connections that the IoT means. After all, the IoT relies on millions of connected devices, all of which are providing data. The value of the IoT comes from what organisations do with that data. Naturally, with its ability to process large amounts of data with its in-memory computing platform, HANA, SAP is well-placed to provide that value.
"We kind of look at the challenge of IoT and big data throughout the entire lifecycle. If you think of ingestion to start with, where is the information coming from? What is the collection the point, and how do you actually make sense of it? Ingestion is important, but then once you ingest, you have to store it, you need to store it for some purpose, and then of course you need to process that information. And then finally you need to visualise it. Think of it as a pipeline from ingestion to storage, processing, and then the visualisation," he said.
"SAP's focusing on the end to end. And by doing end-to-end processing on big data, it entitles us to be able to do IoT-type solutions because we manage the entire end-to-end lifecycle of the data. HANA really gives us the foundations of being able to build these solutions. The idea really is that, if you have a runtime platform that's conducive to these types of solutions, it's much easier to innovate."
Khan added that, while the endless possibilities about the IoT are being discussed - with very little being practically done at this stage - SAP's perspective is that there are companies around the world using next-gen technologies that resemble the IoT. He pointed out that SAP tends not to become swept up in the wave of the each big trend, but that the vendor was quietly working on innovative ideas that help advance the industry. He said that the vendor's recent additions to the HANA platform were evidence of this. He also maintained that big data was the key to unlocking the value in the Internet of Things.
"Things like predictive maintenance, connected logistics, and being able to do these types of solutions, are already playing into the value-add of big data. For example, with predictive maintenance, the notion really is that, in the connected vehicle, you have so many different sensors, and this not part of the possible, this is part of reality today," he said.
"In a car, there's about six kilometres of cabling, and 60 processing units, and potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of sensors. And to be able to tie into all of that information, the ingestion of that information, into our HANA in-memory platform entitles us to be able to do things that are not possible today, given traditional runtimes."
However, despite not buying into the hype surrounding the IoT, Khan also allowed himself a little optimism over the trend. And his reason for optimism was the fact that so many players within the IT industry are coming together to solve the challenges associated with IoT adoption. He cited SAP's relationship with Siemens as an example, where the two companies have created an Industry Cloud aimed at making manufacturing plants smarter. And other partnerships and collaborations across the industry were making waves as well, he explained.
"The IoT is going to be successful because it's going to be a collaboration of different entities working together," he said.