The intelligent enterprise relies on data to enable intelligent decisions to be taken, which in turn enables process automation and innovation. For any and all of this to happen, it depends on connectivity, without which the data feeds necessary for intelligent decisions are not possible.
Often enterprises start small, and before much consideration has been given to the long-term connectivity strategy, there are hundreds of thousands – or millions – of devices connected in a manner that was designed only to serve a few thousand. As a result, rather than being part of the solution, connectivity rather becomes a major source of complexity and a headache.
Let’s take a manufacturing company as an example of what connectivity challenges could arise in the intelligent enterprise, and how to solve them.
The supply chain may span many continents, or at least be distributed throughout the home country. In addition, the production environment may be spread across many sites, the distribution channels will be equally diverse, and the end products may be used by customers globally.
Connecting components across all these locations will require many different technologies and networks, such as WiFi, low power wide area technology, and mobile cellular technology to name a few – and these will be spread across many different providers, even within a single country.
All of these devices will of course produce vast amounts of data, which in turn will require significant bandwidth in order to connect back to the intelligent enterprise.
Each network technology has its own interface, and will have a different API, as well as different reporting and billing models – on top of which each will require a separate contract.
The challenge is to manage all the different required connectivity technologies in a way that is simple for the intelligent enterprise, thereby allowing the focus to remain on delivering products and service to customers.
To do this well it’s important to ensure continuity of service across the different connectivity types used, as well as to ensure consistency of control and security.
Business operations must easily be able to monitor the connected state of assets and manage this effectively.
Despite all of our modern technology, an old adage still holds true: The intelligent enterprise is only as strong as the weakest link within. One weak link in the process will compromise the intelligent enterprise.
There are 3 key areas to ensure connectivity does not become a distraction:
1.) Define logistics: How will the all the different networks and technology types be handled? Can these be rationalized?
2.) Stay safe: How will the thousands – and even millions – of entry points to the networks be secured?
3.) Plan for uncertainty: How to handle uncertain connectivity? As the intelligent enterprise increasingly depends on real time information to function at its best, it is vital processes can deal with interruptions in connectivity.
If these questions are carefully considered, IoT connectivity will enhance solutions rather than become a distraction.