Digital transformation is clearly essential to companies’ future success, as businesses that manage the digital transformation process well are already seeing higher growth, profit, and employee engagement rates than their peers, according to the Leaders 2020 Research Brief. Digital transformation, however, is not merely about the implementation of new technology but, just as important, about the usage of this technology.
As we go about our private lives, we are increasingly relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect us to myriad applications, services, service providers, and vendors. We are connected to the IoT through everything from our smartphones, wearable fitness devices, and personal virtual assistants, to connected cars, connected homes, GPS locators, and a wide variety of sensors. All of this happens in an increasingly seamless fashion, and our usage of these technologies is affecting virtually every aspect of our daily routines and tasks.
200 billion connected devices = Death by data if you don’t get it right
From a corporate perspective, the massive amounts of data generated – through these devices and the billions of enterprise devices and sensors that are already connected (15 billion devices in 2015 based on an Intel infographic) – is creating the potential for an entirely new level of integration and usage of data into our business decisions. Oftentimes though, the pure scale and inherent complexity are underestimated when it comes to making efficient and user-friendly enterprise applications, which can be leveraged across all functions of the company as needed. As projected in the infographic, exponential growth of IoT will reach 200 billion devices in 2020, so the task of making real-time sense of the incoming information is not likely to get any less daunting.
Combine this endless inflow of unstructured data with the move towards the state of a “Live Business,” where information is available in real time and where organizational structures, business decision-making processes, and resource allocations are in essence liquid and able to shift in the moment, depending on the needs of customers. The need for having actionable data on hand at all times becomes clear.
Combining IoT and mobility for real competitive advantage and new business models
So, what really makes the difference when companies are developing use cases and real-world applications to gain this competitive edge using the available data and technology in preparation for the future?
For MAPAL, a leading provider of precision tools and machining solutions, the real leap forward came through the combination of IoT and mobility, which moved the company from selling tools to also being a service provider. Taking a two-pronged approach, MAPAL first created a mobile app with scanning, photo, and voice recognition capabilities, enabling both their own people as well as their customers’ employees to react instantly to broken parts where identified. This initiates the replacement process within seconds instead of using a manual-reporting process, which previously took several days.
The second step was building an IoT platform that can combine and manage all of the data related to specific tools in a secure, central, cloud-based platform that can be maintained and accessed throughout the lifecycle of the tools. This collaborative Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) model works like a data highway, where customers and suppliers jointly maintain and use tool-related data, based on defined guidelines and access rights. The mobile app and the cloud-based platform work together to gather input from the app, sensor data to track stock movements from warehouses, and customer data. Over time, this will enable machine learning and predictive forecasting to further reduce downtime and enable a much more productive workforce. Ultimately, autonomous workflows could be created that could order new parts without human interaction.
For MAPAL, the procurement of tools can now be done seamlessly across multiple locations, resulting in optimized stock levels and a more cost-effective purchasing process. This, in turn, allows suppliers to offer new services to customers because they can document test results and make those results available to multiple clients via the platform. The application programming interface (API) technology also ensures that the open platform connection to the backend system is always fast and reliable. This is driving digital transformation of the business model and sets up new ways to interact with partners and customers alike.
Enabling innovation for your company
Recently, companies such as Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google have all opened up to enable third-party developers to access their artificial intelligence (AI) bots (Siri, Alexa, Cortana, etc.), and according to a recent Forbes article, a new generation of AI-based apps will take the current evolution even further. In addition, recent technology agreements like the Apple and SAP partnership are taking innovation to the next level with advances in AI, IoT, and a new software development kit (SDK) by SAP for iOS mobility to drive even greater innovation for enterprise employees and customers. Bringing together AI, IoT, and mobility into a common platform to build new contextual native enterprise apps will not only create new applications and usages for AI and mobility, but will create the next level of potential innovation.
No innovation, no growth
Without innovation, there is limited opportunity for growth, according to a recent Fortune interview that addressed the importance of mobile innovation in the enterprise. As we connect everything from nano-robots to portable healthcare monitoring devices, from massive industrial machinery to your home vacuum, the possibilities for increased employee engagement, process optimization, customer satisfaction, and new Live Business models are opening up. It is, however, up to us to harness the data we are working with to make it mobile, easily accessible, and real-time actionable at the moment that it’s needed by our partners, our customers, or us. The mobile revolution is just beginning – and the possibilities are endless.
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