Moving from the whiteboard to full deployment

01 April 2019

Lawrence Ross describes how digital experimentation with the IoT leads to innovation and looks at potential solutions for creating a clearer path to innovative IoT.

Though the IoT is capable of delivering success, implementing a solution effectively can be difficult and costly. Typically, a fully deployed IoT solution requires significant upfront investment because of the large number of sensors and network gateways that need to be installed and commissioned before services can start running. The solution must not just be functional but must also deliver on key metrics such as security and reliability. With such stringent demands, the success rate for early adopters has been comparatively low. A 2016 study conducted by Cisco found the success rate for an IoT project was just 26%. 

Research by McKinsey found pilot projects frequently went no further: just 30% of those surveyed were starting to scale to enterprise-wide deployment. The pilots themselves were often lengthy endeavours. Of those organisations surveyed, 84% of companies were stuck in pilot mode for more than a year. For 28%, the pilot was still running after two years.

However, pilot projects can convey important information for the organisation. According to McKinsey, 64% of the decision-makers surveyed agreed they learned even from stalled or failed IoT initiatives and those experiences have helped accelerate subsequent investment in IoT projects. Many of those who have been successful engaged the IoT partner ecosystem at every stage of the implementation plan. Working with partners is a key factor in IoT success but there are many other contributors.

Successful organisations want to be able to keep pursuing proven strategies. But to remain competitive, they have to embrace change and innovate. The IoT is now seen to be a leading candidate for advancing innovation. But as with any innovation it involves risk. For every innovation that results in an improvement to the bottom line there are many ideas that fail to deliver. The key is to minimise the costs of failures but learn as much as possible from them to help drive the innovation that will deliver a successful deployment.

Experimentation can answer the many questions that need to be tackled before any mass IoT deployment. But how can the concept be put into practice? What is required is a ready made platform that supports experimentation through plug-and-play substitution of components both at the hardware and software level. The platform needs to offer businesses a safe space that makes it possible to get results fast, whether they are successes or failures. 

A platform that is offered as a subscription, such as ADLINK Edge, can provide all the relevant hardware, software and services required for a variety of projects and experiments that are run simultaneously in a manner that minimises risk for the user. It understands the many different protocols and data-access technologies that can form an IoT implementation and lets users connect disparate devices and computers using their native protocols and feed into an IoT backbone. The data flows into a common stream from which back-end services can pull insights and deliver real-time knowledge to users and customers with access to the experiment. 

When implemented in a manner that satisfies stakeholders and takes account of the capabilities and limitations of individual technologies, the IoT can deliver cost savings. A divide-and-conquer strategy that uses early experimentation to let implementers gain knowledge as quickly as possible provides a way to cut out many of the obstacles to success. Small-scale experiments enabled by a service that provides a wide variety of IoT technologies and devices that are known to work together streamline the learning process. In doing so, they make it much easier for organisations to move from the whiteboard stage to full deployment. 

Lawrence Ross is general manager – Software & Solutions at ADLINK.

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