Virtually every organisation is looking hard at the Internet of Things (IoT) to assess opportunities to improve efficiency, reduce costs and enhance customer experience. The widespread deployment of high bandwidth mobile networks in tandem with the creation of a vast array of low cost sensor devices has created a perfect storm: the IoT is now both viable and affordable. But while organisations are flocking to device vendors in a bid to get involved, there are two major stumbling blocks: defining the business outcome and creating the business case.
Defining the business outcome
In the construction industry downtime due to equipment failure can have very significant consequences, especially given the use of penalties for late completion. With projects run on very tight timelines, failure of one piece of equipment can knock out the whole schedule. The chance to leverage IoT data to embrace proactive maintenance is, therefore, compelling. With real time information from sensors measuring temperature, vibration and current, for example, an organisation can track variances to identify likely problems and undertake preventative equipment maintenance. To realise this vision requires an investment not only in multiple sensors but also a secure wireless mesh network, database to store the information and an analytics tool that can identify trends in temperature variation and flag up those pieces of equipment at risk before they fail. In this case, replacing the traditional break/fix model with a proactive approach significantly reduces the likelihood of downtime, producing immediate savings that can make the IoT business case.
Creating the business case
End to End IoT integrators will have an increasing role to play in enabling organisations to realise their IoT visions; but organisations need to make sure that this new generation of service providers can offer all the critical elements of the IoT solution – not just devices and network transport. And this is key because once the end to end IoT deployment is in place, organisations have a wealth of data that can be used to drive incremental business value. Within construction, while the preventative maintenance value justifies the initial IoT deployment, the data also enables a company to gain far more insight into the overall performance of equipment within different construction environments, supporting better long term planning. Performance information can also be consolidated into Key Performance Indicator (KPI) dashboards; to ensure everyone from maintenance experts to site managers have real time access. A concrete example is temperature sensor data collection while concrete is being poured – in order to prevent cracking, the temperature of concrete has to remain within certain ranges during the pouring process. By measuring this and producing a report, a construction company can mitigate against future liability. In addition, this information can be securely shared with relevant third parties, such as insurers, risk assessors, academics, equipment design and manufacturers, building management companies, and used by the customer services team to undertake proactive communications programmes. The potential business benefits that IoT has to offer is making it the hottest tech ticket around right now, and for good reason. But organisations need to be aware that while data is a critical part of the solution it is just a part. Without every component of the solution in place and a trusted end to end provider, organisations will struggle to make any sense of this data storm and fail to make a compelling business case.