Integration is arguably the most important and costly element of any IoT project. Rik Gunderson, UK Utility Director for Software AG, explains how integration is crucial to make data valuable.
In Internet of Things (IoT) projects, if you don’t get integration right, no ‘Thing’ can be done, and no project will succeed.
IoT projects are complicated – sensors, devices, APIs, data, back office systems and analytics all must be tied together to realise value from your data. This requires integration. Integration is arguably the most important and costly element of any IoT project. Gartner estimated that 50% of the cost of IoT projects is spent on integration.
In the water utility industry going forward, the role of data will be critical. Yet, to date, few utilities have managed to get value from it. They have invested millions of pounds in IoT “point” projects, in hopes that the data realised from these will enlighten and empower their operations.
In most cases, however, these often do not deliver on expectations. Frequently, the projects and resultant data are kept in silos within separate departments. There is little interaction between the silos/departments, so the data cannot be viewed and analysed in its entirety. Therefore, its value cannot be understood, nor insight actioned upon.
To be successful with IoT, you must securely share this data across all relevant people, processes and applications and deliver it to a cross-functional team not just involving IT & OT, but all relevant departments. This might include finance, customer service, field service, sales and marketing. Integrating your devices and sensors needs to involve both existing assets and new assets, allowing you to easily connect and manage these in real time.
That flexibility is only possible with integration. Integration of Things will play an increasingly powerful role as your ecosystem expands to include more devices, communication technologies and suppliers. APIs will help you share information safely between applications, employees and partners to provide transparency, efficiency and enable innovative insights.
Integration and alerts
Integration in IoT should also include asset-generated alerts in utility companies. Context can be added for analysis – what do the alerts mean and how urgent are they? What time of day did they occur? How long did your response take?
Alerts that aren’t actioned or don’t need to be actioned waste valuable resources. Once the context of an alarm or alert is understood, integration can be utilised to automate the process. Then you can better manage them – whether it is by assigning an engineer, ordering a part or escalating an issue to ensure SLAs are met. Without integration none of this happens.
If your sensors detect lower-than-prescribed pressure in a pipeline, you could have a leak. If your IoT is not integrated, the person looking at that leak on his screen has no context and no way of discovering what else is going on in the network.
They would assign an engineer to investigate it. When it is possible there is already someone from a third party contractor checking it out. This wastes manpower and possibly jeopardises the outcome of other problems elsewhere – as the engineers are all busy.
Turning your sensor data into value requires an integrated API approach, where everything is transacted securely. You need a single, secure integration platform – used by all your departments, third party contractors, suppliers and partners. Then you can realise value from all that data.