​How Will the Internet of Things Reshape Industry?

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On 11th July of this year, SAP held its pivotal conference, ‘SAP Leonardo Live - Not Just Another Business Conference’ at the Kap Europa Congress Center in Frankfurt. Focussing heavily on the Internet of Things, the two day conference brought together some of the industry’s most prolific speakers, influencers and of course, IoT decision makers; waiting to hear how it will transform their businesses through interconnected devices and digital processes.

Featuring more than 50 customer showcases from all over the world and five focused tracks with 30+ sessions on the Digital Supply Chain, SAP Leonardo Live assumed a bold new event format in that it was broadcast live globally via a newscast instead of the usual standard presentations.

So what is the Internet of Things? And what did we learn from this prestigious SAP event? Well, the IoT is a general phrase used to describe internet-enabled devices such as the smart gadgets we all know and love. Most notable, is the emergence of Google Home and Amazon Echo, which we will all recognise, and that are also gaining popularity in the market.

These types of devices are all connected through a single, remotely accessible network. How does this work? In the same way that your thermostat, television, refrigerator and even your music player may also be controlled through your smartphone or tablet.

In case you’re not familiar with this concept yet and are thinking, “I have a normal fridge-freezer”; things are set to change drastically, meaning that these devices will be common place in the home come 2020. In fact, Gartner stated that the number of interconnected devices jumped up 30 percent to 6.4 billion in 2016 and this will multiply greatly to around 30 billion in every day use in three years’ time. This will mean an industry representative of hundreds of billions of dollars in the very near future. Of course, there’s a knock on effect from this change; this digital disruption if you will; and we should start to see a revolution in the way that we live our lives and manage our businesses even if you don’t necessarily deal directly with technology.

How will business change?

First and foremost, you will need to ask yourself, is your business ready for the Internet of Things? If not, then you need to begin thinking about it, as these devices will almost definitely start making a huge impact on your business and how you deal with clients.

Big Data

Every business tracks and records data in some capacity, but with interconnected devices, you’ll be inundated with more data than ever before. It’s how you use this data to your advantage that will affect your business and bottom line.

For some, this new data will provide more in-depth metrics about customers and their behaviours. It will also give employers valuable information about their business and how their employees work on a day-to-day basis. Of course, this is all valuable data, but you have to know how to manage and utilise it to your advantage.

With the Internet of Things allowing marketers and data analysts to access a three-dimensional view of their customers’ interactions and touch points on the path to purchase, companies will be able to adopt a smarter, and more streamlined approach to business and Customer Relationship Management.

Tracking and management of inventory

If you’re a business that looks after inventory in some manner, then this will affect you. The Internet of Things is likely to completely revolutionise how companies around the world track and manage their inventory on a daily basis. If your business relies heavily on warehousing and or/storage, then you will already be used to using scanners or remote devices to keep stock of goods. But, in the very near future, smart devices will be able to keep tabs on changes to inventory automatically, saving employees’ time. As we’re finding ever more apparent, the smart home and office is the way forward; and probably the most welcomed is the smart warehouse, in the evermore demanding supply chain landscape where consumers are expecting goods to be delivered to them either on the same day or the next.

A faster business world

With the Internet of Things in place, there’s no doubt that every process will become a lot faster. Since technology will sooner rather than later demand everything to be interconnected by the Internet, business processes will also need to keep up, meaning that you’ll be able to serve your customers quicker than usual. Customers will start to demand faster service, speedy delivery and a more efficient service; but you’ll be able to manage this with the invaluable capabilities that the IoT brings with it.

Impact on workforces and the option to work remotely

If your business doesn’t have to look after any physical inventory, then the Internet of Things can be worthwhile in a whole other way, including the ability to work remotely from around the UK or even globally if you have international business.

With the ability to link up multiple devices to one network, employees that want to work remotely can do so with ease, and in fact, be more connected than ever before. This may also mean that jobs can be done quicker as your staff can work from remote locations across the world whilst also tapping into devices in the office or at other company buildings.

It’s also proven that employees that have the option to work remotely are a lot more productive, meaning that your bottom line could also see a positive impact.

Meetings, site visits and interviews could also be transformed, with the introduction of products like iRobot’s Ava 500. This device is a telepresence robot which can move autonomously around an office or space, allowing you to participate in meetings wherever they might be taking place, all from the comfort of your home, hotel room or anywhere else you may be.

Increasing efficiency and productivity

The evolution of technology always favours both productivity and efficiency and the ability to get more done in a shorter amount of time is always a bonus. With the Internet of Things, your whole business should be able to operate much more productively, and at a lower cost. Although you may need to think about the initial outlay for upgrading your current devices, in the long run, your overheads will decrease and your business will improve overall.

It’s without a doubt that the IoT will become mainstream, and it will change the fundamentals of every industry around the world. Many industries may become completely automated, many will become obsolete, and others will have a much higher demand. The most important thing for any business owner is to pay very close attention to how your industry is developing and ensure that you are proactive at every turning point before major changes start to happen and you’re left in the dark. Three years may indeed seem like a long way off for the Internet of Things to be properly integrated into our way of life, but you can’t afford to in the past.

Still not sure about the Internet of Things? If you need more guidance, then we are more than happy to provide help through our User Group membership. Just contact us on 01642 309930 or support@sapusers.org and we will come back to you.

A warning about security

As the Internet of Things continues to expand businesses, so does the surface area which hackers have to play with. In addition, with the introduction of regulations such as GDPR, protecting company intellectual property (IP), customer data and operational infrastructures is more urgent than ever before. In fact according to our recent Security and Compliance Research Report, nearly half of SAP users have greater concerns regarding security of their SAP landscape than they did 12 months ago.

Due to the technology and idea of networking devices still being relatively new, security has not always been at the forefront of product design. A particular risk is products that are sold with out of date or unpatched operating systems and software. Hackers rely heavily on coming up with ways to use devices that were never conceived of before. This contrasts with the human nature outlook of developers, who are likely to be more focused on the way things are supposed to work.

Another common risk is one that has been associated with technology since the birth of devices and computers - users failing to change passwords from the default factory settings. Even in cases where passwords are updated, often they are not done so securely enough.

Still not sure about the Internet of Things? If you need more guidance, then we are more than happy to provide help through our User Group membership. Just contact us on 01642 309930 or support@sapusers.org and we will come back to you.

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