2016 looks set to be the year that the Internet of Things (IoT) hits the big time. We’ve already seen a range of new IoT services come to market. Take Samsung’s smart fridge, which launched at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas; this connected cooler allows people to check in on the contents of their fridge via their smartphones, and even helps them to plan healthier eating regimes for their families. Connected cars were also a big theme at CES, with the likes of Bosch launching new sensors and devices to help enable automated driving. As anyone following Google knows, soon we’ll see completely driverless cars on the road, which use the IoT to help them navigate and avoid collisions.
IoT matters to consumers and it matters – or at least it should matter – to businesses. IoT can help brands build stronger customer relationships so mere products are elevated to compelling experiences. As pointed out in this article, the genius thing about Samsung’s smart fridge, for example, is not so much the fridge itself, but that it interacts with Samsung’s phone – building a wider brand awareness and relationship with the customer. In the digital age, IoT is absolutely essential to delivering expecptional customer experiences. This is a critical time for IoT, one where the technology is poised to take a central role in our home and work lives.
As such, it’s important to keep in mind the key factor in its success: application innovation. IoT isn’t just about adding ‘intelligence’ and sensors to devices; it’s about creating innovative applications that make use of this technology to deliver value. Businesses must therefore be able to experiment with IoT applications in a low-cost, low risk environment. After all, you can have all the embedded sensors in the world, but they’re useless without value-add applications that integrate IoT data with all relevant enterprise systems.
There’s only one way of addressing this need and that’s through the cloud; specifically: Cloud Platforms. A Cloud Platform enables application developers to rapidly build and test IoT applications in the cloud. This approach greatly lowers the cost and time associated with developing such applications, as developers can use the pre-configured development tools delivered through the platform. Costs are further lowered, as developers need only use the database, storage and compute resources sufficient to their requirements; whereas in the past, developers would need to build a unique development environment for each and every application – a time consuming and costly process.
The result of all this, is that developers are free to experiment; they can try out IoT applications within the cloud to see if they generate real value – whether that is through improving business efficiency or creating a new service for customers. If the applications prove successful, then the Cloud Platform allows them to immediately scale it up by increasing the resources dedicated to the application, or, if more appropriate, by moving the application to the businesses’ on-premises systems.
Cloud Platforms therefore enable businesses to be more agile with their application development, and this will prove crucial in helping them develop truly innovative IoT applications that deliver a competitive edge. One of the reasons that Cloud Platforms are so successful in this regard is that it enables complete data integration across the business. Through Cloud Platforms, businesses can take all their new IoT data, as well as any other relevant data from existing sources (CRM, Sales and Marketing systems for example, or even unstructured data from social media platforms) bring it together and make it available to the enterprise applications that need it. In this respect it’s the glue that binds enterprise data together, and helps turn mere IoT sensor data into something that can be used by an application to add value.
For example, energy providers are increasingly installing smart meters into people’s homes to monitor how they use energy. Now this data on its own is fairly useless, but when combined with other sources of data from within the enterprise it enables a variety of value-add services: customer smartphone apps for example, that can use the data to show them how to save energy; energy suppliers meanwhile can aggregate the data with that of other customers to show them where their network pinch points are; the utility can use the data to launch new tariff plans to help them manage demand on the network; the list could go on…
As we move into the new IoT-enabled world it is clear that businesses need to innovate and integrate to succeed. If you would like to find out more on how Cloud Platforms can help your business meet these goals, you can download our PaaS guide.