IoT at the Edge
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How to get started with IoT? Start small, think BIG



By Yanick Pouffary
HPE Distinguished Technologist

With the Internet of Things, everything is connected. This includes not only the connected devices themselves, but also the IT infrastructure that enables business use of IoT data and insights. What you build today will inevitably influence your success for future projects.

Many people are uncertain about where to get started with IoT. It’s very tempting to think small and focus on solving individual pain points, especially since people need a proof of concept to show a return on investment before going big. Small projects should theoretically disrupt operations a lot less than larger ones, but often these modest, independent projects can ultimately lead to rework, replacement, and overspending.

But starting small shouldn’t mean thinking small. Rather than just dipping a toe into the IoT waters, IT organizations need to plan strategically and build gradually with small wins that are aligned to the long-term business vision and goals for IoT.

IoT strategy: the risks of planning small

How important is a strategic plan? In a recent blog post, Al Madden highlights survey results where IoT early adopters shared their lessons learned. Not surprisingly, respondents cited insufficient planning that led to rework and failures.

As those survey respondents can testify, rushing to build a working IoT solution without regard to reusability and scalability can easily lead to failure. There are many technical choices in the IoT roadmap, and with so many options for achieving a desired outcome, there’s a very good chance that whatever you choose for one solution might not coexist with the next. IoT solutions succeed over time when they are composed of reusable “building blocks” that support incremental change.

LEGO-technic-porsche-911-GT3-RS-kit-designboom-03-818x646.jpgSpeaking of blocks, Lego toy enthusiasts know that having a ready-to-build kit gives a great advantage over a pile of random bricks. Indeed, though Legos have been around for decades, it wasn’t until the company offered detailed kits to construct specific designs that Lego ascended to its current popularity. To build up to something spectacular with IoT—as with Legos—you’ll need a similarly planned architecture with a vision of the end result.

A focus on building blocks can give your IoT deployment the ability to build in stages and reuse resources, as well as the agility necessary to be flexible and adapt to changes in business requirements, components, and technology.

Building blocks for an evolving ecosystem

yellow_green_red_blue_lego_blocks_in_square_shape_stock_photo_Slide01.jpgThinking of IoT project implementations in terms of building blocks provides the flexibility needed to work on smaller implementation stages that minimize risk of failure but allow room for learning and build toward the bigger goal, while adapting to an evolving ecosystem and constantly changing set of requirements.

The critical characteristic of IoT building blocks is reusability. These can be repeated:

  • Connectivity—The infrastructure required to collect and transmit data from any device or machine, regardless of its function, location, or operating system.
  • Compute—The power to process the massive amounts of data collected from devices and turn it into business insights.
  • Analytics—The software to transform collected raw data into business insights and correlations that can be used to make decisions.
  • Security—Having an end-to-end security framework such that the sources of data are inherently trustworthy and protected from breach or infiltration.
  • Control— Being able to sense events and take action to optimize business conditions.

Beware the proof of concept

Manufacturing.pngCompanies are moving quickly to IoT because they see immediate business value in the form of operational efficiencies, better and differentiated customer service, creation of new products and services, and development of new business models. But too many begin with a narrow focus on their highest-value business objective, thus making it hard to assemble into a larger solution.

For example, let’s say a manufacturing company wishes to optimize energy use by powering down to a low-energy state when factory equipment is not in use for short periods. After building a system that works, the next year the company decides to do the same for full facility heating and cooling. Will the network be able to support this new use case? Will the company have enough compute power to process this new massive data source? How will they absorb this data? Will the data collection and security provisions already built be reusable for HVAC?  Or will they be inflexibly tied to factory floor devices?

A project with a high ROI is a tempting target for an accelerated proof of concept. But a proof of concept proves only that you can assemble pieces for a specific use. If you laid the groundwork for business transformation by enabling the right sustainable infrastructure and people/processes to support the transformation, IoT can help the company to disrupt and innovate.

Getting to vision

Technology_services.pngPlanning big is not a drawn-out exercise. Project stages can be as bite-size as you need them to be. The critical first step is developing a strategic vision: Knowing where your end-to-end IoT solution is going so that you can define such stages and identify areas for business and technology alignment.

In my next blog post, I’ll talk about a simple step our customers can take to enable that business and technology alignment, putting together a greater vision for IoT that satisfies both, while defining a roadmap with small IoT stages that will lead to the desired end state.

In the meantime, the whitepaper “HPE and IoT Services” will help business and IT stakeholders improve their understanding of IoT opportunities and the causes of complexity that lead to failures and rework.

Ready to learn more?

IoT Services.jpgIoT Strategy


Empowering the Digital Enterprise to be more efficient and innovative through data-driven insights from the Internet of Things (IoT)
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