Navigating the Future of IoT One Step at a Time

Navigating the Future of IoT One Step at a Time


Wael Elrifai

Like many of you, I’ve been in the big data, machine learning and Internet of Things gig long enough to assemble an impressive collection of battle scars from use cases and technologies that were closer to bleeding edge than cutting edge.

In collaboration with Emil Berthelsen, IoT Analyst at Gartner, and Don DeLoach, co-chair of the Midwest IoT Council, we set out to help organizations learn from our battle scars, so they could gain the greatest and most sustainable competitive advantage with IoT.

In 2014, we read an article by Michael E. Porter and James E. Heppelmann, and their vision for IoT’s five-stage evolution in Harvard Business Review culminating in a ‘systems of systems’ model. In this model, diverse systems are orchestrated and optimized in the form of constructs like smart factories, smart homes and smart cities.

The five-stage model is now generally accepted and inspired me, DeLoach and Berthelsen to collaborate on a new book “The Future of IoT: Leveraging the Shift to a Data Centric World” (published by BookBaby and available from Amazon and other booksellers.

In the book we draw on our experience with live projects to put what’s happening on the ground today into the context of these five stages. The book also offers practical advice to enterprise IT and data leaders seeking to prepare their architectures for IoT’s future and gain as much value as possible from implementations.

The profound transformation to IoT and data-driven architectures will also involve new ways of working, new skills and resources, new types of contractual arrangements and significant cultural change up and down the supply chain. We explore all these in the final chapter of the book, but today, I’d like to share are top initiatives from the checklist that organizations will need to employ to further evolve their use of IoT:

  1. Identify and prioritize IoT applications suitable and relevant for the organization, not just the product. – This practice helps organizations assess which business processes and products IoT can impact within a given organization.
  2. Understand both technology infrastructures and architectures as well as data models and flows. – Understanding this will enable executives and further their organizations to generate transparency on what data flows from where and to whom and when. This can additionally assist in creating openness about how data is managed and secured within an organization.
  3. Ensure that all enterprise data is managed through a single point of control from within the enterprise. – Use of a single point of data management within an organization aids the identification of preferred architectural models for the deployment of the first receiver concept.
  4. Establish a secure and functioning publisher-subscriber first receiver approach to data management within the enterprise. – This practice enables organizations to implement the first receiver architecture as closely integrated with IoT initiatives.
  5. Develop and share with your partner, suppliers and customers, clear guidelines on how data is managed and share between stakeholders in various processes. – Sharing this information allows executives to secure that data is not locked into single business processes, but instead open for use and sharing as decided on by the collective enterprise.
  6. Collaborate with technology service providers promoting and encouraging open data systems rather than closed loop solutions. – By viewing market developments as a collaborative opportunity rather than a competitive environment, executives can advance the capabilities of IoT within an organization.
  7. Continue developing and exploring IoT opportunities and implementations, and build successful data aggregation approaches, models and analytical tools. – Organizations can build on data from existing and newer and smarter connected products. They can also build on data by opening data aggregation to other data sources.
  8. Make sure the entire organization understands the IoT objectives of the business, and how IoT transforms the industry. – Enterprise IT and data leaders can enable this understanding through educating the organization about IoT, and how it is changing the fundamental nature of everyday business operations.

We fully acknowledge that in realizing the system of systems model, technology architecture and governance is only one piece of the jigsaw. We also believe the benefits IoT offers to organizations and society at large massively outweigh the risks and that ultimately people will have the will to overcome the challenges to make this system of systems vision become reality.

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