Can IoT be enterprises’ digital transformation platform?

IoT platforms and connected apps are helping to deliver that digital business transformation. Antony Savvas looks at how organisations can do it

Digital transformation is something an increasing number of organisations are now trying to get a grip on. Digital business transformation includes greater connectivity of processes and the wider use of analytics to improve products and services, often using the cloud.

Ian Hughes, an analyst for the Internet of Things at 451 Research, says: “IoT is a key part of digital business transformation as it provides the scope for detailed instrumentation, feeding to analytics and importantly provides the return feedback link to apply an action. For product manufacturers it starts to offer an opportunity to gain continuous feedback. The instrumentation gives a greater resolution than previously, where only quarterly sales figures and customer surveys were possible.”

Ian Hughes: IoT provides the scope for detailed instrumentation and the return feedback link to apply an action
Ian Hughes:
IoT provides the scope for detailed instrumentation
and the return feedback link to apply an action

Insurance

Craig Foster, managing director of HomeServe Labs, says: “The IoT is transforming perceivably less exciting industries like insurance into a digital, forward-thinking, technology-based industry which puts consumers’ needs at the heart of it.”

“Unidentified water leaks in homes, for example, are the single biggest cause of claims on home insurance policies and more is paid out on this issue than for anything else. With 25% of the underlying cost of your home insurance used to cover the damage caused by the escape of water, the benefits of using a leak detection device are huge.”

HomeServe Labs has launched LeakBot, a smart leak-detection device that enables insurers to be more proactive in helping protect their customers’ homes, rather than simply assessing for risks and paying when things go wrong. LeakBot uses intelligent technology to detect water leaks in the home from just one smart device, without the need for professional installation. The device helps insurers reduce underwriting costs, and will also help drive customer satisfaction, says Foster.

“The IoT is changing the way people interact with their homes,” he adds. “All of a sudden, thanks to connected devices, homes can have conversations with their inhabitants. So if something is wrong, things can be repaired quickly rather than accumulate into a big problem.”

Fleet management

Arval, a fleet management vehicle supplier, is using a Sierra Wireless IoT cloud solution to manage its vehicles via onboard telematics as part of a new pay-as-you-go hiring model. Arval uses Sierra Wireless AirVantage cloud and AirPrime embedded modules. AirVantage is an integrated platform of services that enables organisations to quickly build and deploy IoT solutions, manage devices, subscriptions and application data through a single interface worldwide.

Paul Gourlet: IoT solution vastly simplifies the process of bringing new services to market
Paul Gourlet:
IoT solution vastly simplifies the process of bringing new services to market

Arval and its customers can monitor and manage a vehicle’s usage through on-board telematics connected to a cellular network. Targeted at enterprise fleet managers, the service enables them to track mileage, fuel consumption, driver behaviour and maintenance, as well as utilise usage-based insurance (UBI) models for cost savings.

“We were looking to enhance our customer service offering,” says Paul Gourlet, technology director at Arval. “We have the global scale we needed, delivering a full solution that integrates the devices, the device data, our mobile network operator’s infrastructure and our back-end IT systems. This solution vastly simplifies the process of bringing new services to market and will enable us to expand rapidly into new countries.”

Retail

One retail expert expects IoT video cameras in shops to play a big part in their digital transformation. Cliff Crosbie, senior vice president for global retail at Prism, has worked for and developed in-store experiences for top brands including Apple, Ikea, Nokia, Nike and Habitat. Prism provides analytics software used mainly by retailers in 80 countries.

Crosbie says: “IoT’s greatest potential to digitally transform retail is by making omnichannel a reality. For many retailers omnichannel is just a fancy buzzword for selling things through both shops and online, but the ‘special sauce’ is joining the channels together and making them add up to more than the sum of their parts.”

He says that if retail brands use their video surveillance cameras as IoT sensors, they can radically change the role their physical shops play, from being stand-alone profit and loss centres to helping boost sales through mobile, online and other channels. Which is how omni-channel should work.

With cameras deployed as IoT sensors that track people’s presence and movement, and linked to analytics software, retailers can view path-maps and heat-maps showing what visitors do when they come through the door.

For instance, the cameras could record the people that walk to a retro fridge display and linger there. And the analytics software can associate that activity with an online spike in sales of those fridges by people who viewed them in-store – justifying the marketing spend on that high street display.

The showroom manager can also see which displays and items are visited frequently but don’t produce sales – high touch/low sales. This invariably happens, says Crosbie, due to some fixable problem with pricing, quality or size, that, if corrected fast, can result in more sales.

All this means that video IoT can give physical retailers exactly the same data that ecommerce sites generate, breaking down data silos across retail channels and finally making omnichannel and digital business transformation possible.

Gas

Nube has the first cloud-based IoT solution for monitoring LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) levels and consumption for consumers.

It includes sensors installed on the tank and mobile and web applications used by consumers and energy companies to monitor tank levels and conditions, order refills, complete payment, and analyse data from the connected tanks throughout Mexico and Latin America.

For consumers, this provides a simple, stressfree method of doing business. It eliminates the frequent issue of either running out of the gas they use for cooking and heating, or being forced to order refills based on a blind estimate of the tank level.

Matt Clarke: IoT can transform entire business models and lead to unprecedented competitive advantage
Matt Clarke:
IoT can transform entire business models and lead to unprecedented competitive advantage

For gas companies, knowing the level of gas in each customer’s tank enables better planning of gas purchasing and the ability to optimise scheduling and delivery operations. This leads to what the company describes as “significant” cost savings, efficient cash flow management and superior customer service.

Chris Gnanakone, co-CEO for Nube, says: “Our IoT and SIM technology with quality of service intelligence is a big benefit for our business where we need to maximise coverage across multiple network operators.”

The cloud is absolutely key in terms of enabling IoT, as it can facilitate not only the integration of the aforementioned technologies, but also the exchange of data that is so central to IoT. It is not only a very efficient hosting environment, it is also possibly the only affordable way to realise IoT.

Matt Clarke, chief technology officer at Amaze, says: “IoT is set to be more disruptive and far reaching than many realise. If approached correctly, it can transform entire business models and lead to unprecedented competitive advantage. It can revolutionise customer experience, streamline operations, completely alter product and service design and deliver new business models and revenue streams.”

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