IoT gets its day in the sun

Enterprises can now fully embrace Internet of Things as concepts move to realisation

Tags: Internet of Things
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IoT gets its day in the sun Gerber: “As much effort as possible should be invested in the wired infrastructure as wireless systems alone cannot transport the volumes of data required.”
By  David Ndichu Published  October 22, 2017

As IoT moves from being a buzzword to applications, organisations are exploring how this technology can be deployed to their real business requirements.

The near-term IoT opportunity centres on a tactical focus on performance improvement or cost optimisation. Implementations already in place are driving better maintenance capabilities at oil and gas facilities or better fuel efficiency in fleet management environments. This year, businesses are on pace to employ 3.1 billion connected things, according to Gartner. 

However, it's the longer term set of opportunities as enterprises explore new business models that are really exciting, says Alfonso Velosa, research vice president at Gartner. “It is part of a broader business process transformation. For example, enterprises are looking for new ways to serve customers better by shifting from a capital expenditure sales cycle to an operating expenditures sales cycle. This may, for example, involve replacing a sale of a compressor with a sale of compressed air-as–a-service.”

But IoT is not just another technology enabler within the enterprise, such as new devices, a new platform or a new application or even a new analytics tool, says Fadi Shanaah, regional business development director, smart cities & healthcare Middle East & Africa Region at Orange Business Services. “It is the combination of all of these elements operating in a synchronized and intelligent framework that has started to disrupt traditional operations from logistics to retail and banking, creating new service propositions and changing customer expectations and experience.”

While the technological challenges may be difficult, the cultural and people challenges are more difficult and will require imaginative approaches to align the people with the technology and the business process transformation, Velosa says.

Several IoT deployment scenarios are “shovel-ready” in the region. Mobile asset monitoring is a very attractive opportunity that already has strong foundations in the Middle East. Service providers such as Etisalat are expanding their M2M services capabilities to include broader fleet management capabilities, Velosa notes.

Matthias Gerber, market manager LAN Cabling at R&M, says other promising market sectors are in smart buildings and smart cities followed by industrial manufacturing and goods logistics, communication in interactive working environments, as well as the supply chain and energy. Moving forward, there is also potential to be found in the automotive industry and transport sector, public security, agriculture, the leisure sector, medicine, and the health sector, says Gerber.

Shanaah says IoT can add broad and deep value across the enterprise and is a key element in ‘enterprise digital transformation’ with two potential fundamental impacts. The first is to create new business models based on a digital model of the business; and then by optimising the business’ operations and improving efficiencies through greater transparency in the form of asset visibility and energy savings, for example. In addition, IOT-driven transformation can help develop new forms of revenue, he adds.

Service providers such as Orange Business Services have developed technology frameworks to help customers build their IoT solutions. ‘Datavenue’ from Orange is an IoT and data analytics framework which brings together the company’s expertise supported by 700 IoT and analytics experts worldwide, as well as data scientists, developers, consultants, statisticians and IoT security experts, Shanaah explains.

Skills

Connecting IoT to the network requires people with the skills to physically connect the assets, as well as to implement the software that can provide the information that can be integrated into the decision tools of record. Since this is not a critical differentiator for most companies, they will usually outsource it to a system integrator partner, Velosa observes. The challenge right now is that there aren’t enough people trained as system integrators. “SIs are ramping up their skills, but have to align these capabilities and their people to the real business opportunity."

No organisation will touch IoT if it does not make a business case, no matter how state-of-the-art the technology seems.

Business leaders need to make sure they’ve set the proper goals and vision for the enterprise and how the business utilises IoT for business transformation, Velosa says. Next, there is a need for change champions in the enterprise that shepherd projects from the proof of concept stage all the way to full, high-volume deployments. Part of these change champions' job will be to ensure they communicate clearly and repeatedly the benefits that IoT brings to the enterprise, says Velosa. “This will also involve people who can drive culture change and ensure that many stakeholders in the enterprise involved in these new IoT initiatives understand the drivers, and can leverage them in their day-to-day work processes.”

Gartner views an ideal IoT architecture as a hybrid system with some of the elements on the edge and some in the cloud, says Velosa.

“Most enterprises will have multiple facilities spread in a region or around the world-cloud architectures provide the flexibility to share information across these environments, as well as providing not just lower cost computer capabilities but also contextual information for aggregated sets of data,” velosa says.

The edge or “on-premise” set of capabilities are needed in cases where data cannot be sent up into the cloud due to latency issues, cost issues, security or business practice issues.

However, IoT deployment will not necessarily mean rip and replace existing infrastructure.

Gerber of R&M says the company is looking into the possibility of connecting IoT devices to the internet via existing communication infrastructure.

All the potentially new IoT devices will need a power supply as well as internet connection. However, not all of them will have an opportunity for AC power supply at the point of use or may not be suitable for battery operation. For these applications, remote powering (e.g. power over Ethernet (PoE) will be crucial.

But PoE has an unprecedented impact on how commercial buildings are managed and operated, says Gerber. One of the key requirements will be Power over Ethernet (PoE) or Power over Ethernet Plus (PoEP). The IEEE has standardised this power supply method in the standards 802.3af (PoE) for up to 15 watts and 802.3at (PoEP) for up to 25 watts. Further developments under 802.3bt are looking to extend the power range up to 50 – 100W (4 Pair Power over Ethernet or 4PPoE).

Critical factors for PoE, PoEP and increasingly for 4PPoE are the temperature increase in the cable due to power transmission (by the resistance of the copper wire) and the destruction of the RJ45 contacts as a result of sparks when unplugging under load, Gerber explains.

Connecting IoT will be a mix of wired and wireless connections.

Gerber says as much effort as possible should be invested in the wired infrastructure, especially in cities, as wireless systems alone cannot transport the volumes of data required. “Fibre optic networks offer the best prospects for the infrastructure backbone, while for the final meters of the link, copper still offers the best solution since power can be supplied at the same time as data using PoE," he adds.

“At R&M, we have always maintained copper and fibre optic cabling as our two 'strong arms'. We continue to research and innovate in both fields so we can deliver the highest quality solutions to customers, irrespective of which technology they choose to deploy,” Gerber says.

Security

In a rush to leverage the immediate opportunity with IoT, security has unfortunately taken the back seat. 

Kalle Björn, director, systems engineering, Fortinet Middle East, observes that few IoT devices have been designed with security in mind. Cost of the devices often plays an important role from buyers’ perspective and adding security to the equation will raise the costs. Some IoT devices have been even designed without the possibility of updating the software leaving them permanently vulnerable if a security issue is discovered.

IoT cannot be treated and secured as an isolated, independent network, says Björn. “It interacts across your existing extended network, including endpoint devices, cloud, traditional and virtual IT, and OT. Isolated IoT security strategies simply increase overhead and reduce broad visibility.”

Instead, security teams need to be able to tie together and cross-correlate what is happening across their IT, OT, IoT, and cloud networks. Björn explains. “Such an approach enables visibility across this entire ecosystem of networks, allowing the network to automatically collect and correlate threat intelligence and orchestrate real-time responses to detected threats,” he adds.

This requires a rethinking of many a security strategy. A distributed and integrated security architecture needs to cover the entire networked ecosystem, expand and ensure resilience, secure compute resources and workloads, and provide routing and WAN optimisation, Björn explains.

The Fortinet Security Fabric can help. The Fabric is designed to solve the challenge of security sprawl by integrating disparate security infrastructure together into a single, holistic framework. “This allows IT security managers to effectively monitor legitimate traffic, including IoT devices, check authentication and credentialing, and impose access management across your distributed environment through an integrated, synchronised, and automated security architecture managed through a single pane of glass,” Björn says.

Regional use cases

Orange Business Services is delivering Smart Cities expertise and ICT technology and consulting services to the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu in Saudi Arabia, in partnership with Mobily. The implementation project will run for five years with a team of Orange consultants managing delivery alongside the support of many individual suppliers.  The transformation will make Yanbu a more competitive city, by enhancing its attractiveness for business and business people and enhancing the quality of life for people living and working there, says Shanaah.

More broadly, Orange is invested in large systems integration programs and operations globally, including new cities and large infrastructure projects, building next-generation ICT infrastructures and IoT solutions that form the backbone of smart ecosystems (real estate, transportation, health, utilities, and government), says Shanaah.

One example of these digital tools is connected meters, for gas, water or electricity. “The idea is to control consumption and also to create new services. So, for example, in the water sector you can create a service that will inform the owner/tenant if there is a leak in a house,” Shanaah says. 

"Orange covers design, build and operations, as well as providing the required ICT technologies and services through an IoT framework that covers data management, analytics, and control – specifically, operations support systems, city management, home automation, IT servers & storage, data centre preparation, hardware including integration and operation," he adds.

In January 2017, Orange Business Services announced a three-year contract with Hertz, one of the largest global car rental companies, for IoT connectivity services to support its hourly vehicle rental service. The Hertz 24/7 hourly rental service is currently available for businesses and through retail partnerships, allowing users to pick up their rented cars or vans at any time, for any duration and from convenient locations. Orange provides the IoT connectivity allowing the keyless cars to be booked by employees on the phone, online or using an app, which simplifies and improves the process, thereby saving costs. Hertz 24/7 pool fleets can be deployed in one or multiple countries where the company operates, allowing its staff to book and use the vehicles available at the different locations.

 

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