How to Survive the Internet of Things
“The Internet of Things” was coined as a catchall phrase to refer to sensor-laden devices, machines, appliances and vehicles that are connected, sending data back and forth to be used in a variety of ways. Now, with always-on technologies driving business, enterprises constantly need to do what it takes to avoid risky situations as “stuff” happens.
The world we live in has always been dynamic and only slightly predictable. Today it is also connected and observable, according to Daniel Munyan, director of CSC’s Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Center of Excellence and OmniLocation product manager. “Whether a manager is in operations, finance, supply chain, maintenance or planning, he or she can plan with foresight of the physical world to actively manage remote and complex operations,” he says.
As an M2M evangelist, Munyan uses the phrase “the Internet of Stuff happens” to describe how the physical world intrudes on project plans, spreadsheets and policies. Perils, hazards and exposures happen naturally, but Munyan says companies can become better equipped these days to take action to avoid, mitigate and respond to them.
“Enterprises have people, vehicles, machines and other assets they integrate to make money. These decisions occur in a wild-and-wooly world. The more awareness and ability to communicate, the quicker you can respond. The more you can modify decisions in flight, the better your outcomes can be,” Munyan explains.
Listen to your machines
The key for enterprises is to listen to what their machines are telling them. That means plugging in the machines to wireless and wired networks. Operating information won’t mean much without the perspective of the physical world. Data on roads, natural and manmade events, weather, and the sources of hazards is increasingly available online, and much of it is from free or inexpensive sources.
The Internet of Stuff affects every enterprise, and managers should be aware of four primary factors involved with managing risk:
- Environment: While largely unpredictable, the environment is observable in its existing and predicted state. Managers need to know how hazards, risks and exposures will affect their operations. Once that’s determined, they need a clear strategy for what actions should be taken, such as who needs to be notified, the plans to respond and the mitigation available.
- Situations: Assets, people and machines are constantly interacting with each other and the environment. In ongoing operations, it is essential for managers to be aware of the interaction among and the meaning behind how people and machines interface. Think service time vs. travel time, or time using tools vs. time finding tools.
- Decisions: Business managers need to place their bets on how they are going to apply their people, machines and vehicles to perform their operations at a profit. Optimizing those decisions in an observable, connected world means real-time analytics that go deeper than “closest asset” and “most experienced resource.” A world of data on the environment, shipping lanes, and customer and employee preferences should be considered for an optimal solution.
- Control: In this dynamic world, business outcomes can be influenced in flight. To maintain control, enterprises must proactively manage the activities of people, machines and policies. Managers should have the flexibility to adjust machines remotely, or teach the machines to tune their behavior on the fly.
To be sure, the Internet has changed everything. Munyan says. “Advanced technology allows businesses of any size or industry to locate, track, navigate and review locations.” Still, Munyan adds, “You can’t manage with just a map. You need the perspective of synchronized views covering the perspectives of map, data, product, supply chain and performance.”
New world of possibilities
With risks lurking constantly, enterprises need to know how to use existing technology to collect information to help mitigate those risks. Munyan says, “We have all kinds of technology surrounding us and because people go around carrying mobile devices, those platforms are ideal to gather geospatial information.”
For example, Munyan says iPhones make good sensors because they are so sensitive. “Now, because we carry smartphones all the time, humans are sensor enabled. The phone can be used not only to track information, it can also be used as an intermediary, and that changes a lot. It opens up all kinds of possibilities for us.”
But again, so what? Munyan says that technology such as CSC’s OmniLocation can provide situational-awareness capabilities so enterprises can know what their machines are doing, and make well-informed decisions to avoid risk and maximize value.
Enterprises can take action to prevent the Internet of Stuff from happening, and managers need to remember five points:
- Focus on the nexus of your enterprise. What are the most essential components of your enterprise? What are the key things you can’t do without?
- Know your world. From daily events to changes in the environment, be aware of what’s going on in the world that can affect your enterprise. The data is available, much of it public and free.
- Listen to your assets. Virtually all powered assets are sitting around with information, and they want to tell you if there is something wrong. Are you listening?
- Make the best of your assignments. Use the metadata available to inform your decisions. When making assignments, take everything into consideration, not just the easy stuff.
- Make fewer, better decisions. Every business has fewer people than it did 10 years ago, albeit doing more work. To get more out of your employees, take away the simple decisions.
So what should be your guiding principle for managing risk in a dynamic, connected world?
“Automate where possible, a maxim since the industrial revolution, now extends to software and machines,” Munyan says. “Next, string together automated tasks via algorithms to make whole processes autonomic or self-directed — like today's self-parking cars. Lastly, keep your eyes on the prize — making whole systems autonomous. Autonomy is possible only when people are the last remaining source of danger or gross inefficiency.”
Jim Battey is a writer for CSC’s digital marketing team.