IoT: Connecting worlds
Joyce Mullen, VP & GM, Dell OEM Solutions discussess the prospects of Internet-of-Things in the Middle East
ACN: What have been some of Dell’s most recent developments within the Internet-of-Things space?
Joyce Mullen: IoT is not really new, it has been around for a while. What is new about IoT now and the big opportunity that is in front of us, which some analysts estimate to be in the trillions, comes from the fact that you can instrument environments that you couldn’t before, economically.
If you think about it, for a long time there have been sensors on production lines, as well as building & automation management systems available in the market. However, some of those price points and investments required to make buildings ‘smart’ were pretty high. If you have a huge hotel, it was one thing. But if you talking about medium-sized office buildings, the price point is probably not where you’re able to, or even willing to pay, in order to get the efficiencies out of those buildings.
What the industry has done is to figure out how to bring those price points down, bringing the costs of those sensors to almost zero. Also, the opportunity to use advanced analytics that are coming from some of the software providers is just amazing and much more cost effective.
So when we took a look of where we had great capability at Dell, before the recent merger with EMC, we found that we were really good in the data centre and in the cloud. What we didn’t really have was the right solutions for the edge. This year, we launched a series of products designed to support edge analytics, meeting our customer requirements from the edge, to the core, to the cloud.
ACN: To what extent would you say IoT is being realised? Have we reached the point where devices are really communicating with each other, or just simply connected?
JM: I would say they are not even all connected yet. There is a lot of opportunity in the unconnected. As you probably know, IoT has been one of the most hyped trends in the history of technology.
I think this is going to take a while to fully develop. It is complex as sensors are all different. There are no standards. What we are finding with our customers is that they should start with a clear sense of what they’re trying to get done and take a very pragmatic approach. This means basically building up that capability, first demonstrating that it works on one floor of a building, then figuring out how to do it across the rest of the structure. Then you figure out how to do it to the rest of the buildings under your management.
ACN: Is there anything distinct about how IoT is being introduced here in the Middle East, when compared to other developed markets?
JM: I think the Middle East has been almost a beacon of a lot of these movements and initiatives. If you think about Masdar City, people have been talking about that for a very long time, it is kind of great example of what technology can do.
The national aspirations of countries, such as the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, to really use technology to transform their economies makes it a perfect environment for us to be in. We see tremendous opportunity in this region, and we’ve already done a lot of work around building and facilities management.
ACN: What would highlight as being the ongoing challenges in IoT? What needs to change to allow Iot to continue to flourish?
JM: I think we’re going to see continued growth in IoT for sure, and I think as we progress and figure out these blueprints and reference architectures, we can figure out how to simplify the transformation for our customers.
The other thing that we are focused on when it comes to digital transformations, is helping out customers modernise their environment, automate it, and then transform it. There are some basic steps that our customers can take, such as having basic data management capabilities.
ACN: Do you see any shortage of IT talent within the Middle East?
JM: I would say it’s an issue that is global. We certainly see an opportunity to help promote the need for data scientists, which we have been working with education institution from across the world. This is the notion of being able to look at data and figure out the algorithms, correlations, as well as discovering how to look at the data in a really meaningful way, in order to get to the outcomes we were talking about.
ACN: How do you see IoT continuing to evolve over the coming years and what role will it play in regional initiatives, such as UAE Vision 2021?
JM: I believe there is no limit to what technology and digital transformation can do for citizens and industries, as well as the governments who are developing these initiatives. It is a critical enabler. We believe that what will happen is that there will be a slow and steady ramp up over time. It won’t be a massive jump.
That matches the aspirations of nations and businesses to transform their own environments. Furthermore, 33% of existing business will be digital disrupted by the year 2020. That’s not very far away.