Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the way business envisions their transformation journey to succeed. The notion that every “thing” can intelligently communicate with every other “thing” within a network ecosystem has unleashed a world of future possibilities. Several industries such as pharma, medical devices, manufacturing, logistics, energy and utilities, hospitality, healthcare, and infrastructure, among others, have begun investing in and incorporating IoT solutions into their systems.
In fact, recent market reports by PwC estimate that business investment in IoT will grow at a CAGR of over 31%, from USD 215 billion in 2016 to USD 832 billion in 2020, with total expenditure in 2015-2020 expected to cross USD 6 trillion. And though the consumer market steadily continues to incorporate IoT into everyday items like wearables, refrigerators and toasters, the real revolution is happening in the clinics, production facilities, factories, supply chain and R&D labs of some of the world’s largest companies.
The Roadblock to the Big Leap
The core value of IoT lies in its ability to connect decision makers to granular data from complex processes. On a factory floor, for example, IoT solutions have a significant impact on outcomes as they can help detect everything from substandard materials, equipment breakdown to potential bottlenecks. For business leaders, this is an invaluable tool that gives them a crystal clear view of their enterprise. This helps them develop improved solutions and make better decisions.
But despite its incredible potential and promise, IoT still faces some fundamental challenges.
Let’s consider for a moment our attitude toward wireless technology. As consumers, we’ve grown accustomed to the ubiquity of wireless technologies in everyday life, such as mobile phones and Bluetooth. We expect it. But most of us are also familiar with the frustration of trying to unsuccessfully connect two devices that are simply not compatible. While it would make things a lot more convenient, seamless networking across devices still hasn’t become the norm—unless, of course, we live in a closed ecosystem of one particular brand which is constantly connected with its partner devices.
But can such an isolated systems design be practical for business and industry? Can businesses really expect to be optimized when thousands of components made by hundreds of manufacturers don’t seamlessly connect in a factory or process pipeline?
Of course not.
The Architecture of Connections
This is exactly the current problem. In most industrial implementations, IoT adoption takes place across a number of point solutions that rely on distinct and typically incompatible connectivity mechanisms and devices. This inevitably leads to a heterogeneous composition across systems that become vast and unmanageable. Simply put, IoT networks still lack a common IoT reference architecture that allows for seamless operations.
Without standardization in IoT architecture, control systems become increasingly complex at best and impossible to operate at worst. This leads to increased costs, higher failure rates, and limited effectiveness across the enterprise. Without interoperability, these systems suffer from poor governance models, oversights in security and privacy concerns, and are painfully difficult to scale over time.
The true potential of IoT can be realized when enterprises adopt a platform-based approach that offers a foundational unity in solutions development. The only way to accomplish this is by developing a reference architecture that defines the fundamental components of these new networks and incorporates reliable mechanisms that ensure security, privacy, scalability, interoperability, and seamless device management.
Lessons from the Pharma Industry
This need can be most easily seen in the pharmaceutical industry. Pharma companies need to overcome some of the greatest challenges in business throughout the value chain – from manufacturing, distribution to patients. For example, critical life-saving drugs like biologics require precise environmental conditions to remain viable; however, nearly 20% of biologics are wasted due to shipping and transportation irregularities.
In such a scenario, IoT technology can be used in monitoring and controlling real-time environmental conditions throughout the logistics chain, saving billions of dollars’ worth of drugs every year. However, for it to work, we still need seamless connectivity between different elements, such as vehicles, mobile devices, industrial sensors, and even civic infrastructure. This is how a standardized reference architecture can revolutionize IoT’s contribution to pharma and other industries.
Recently, international pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. partnered with global technology solutions provider HCL Technologies to address this challenge and released a whitepaper that tackles this important issue. It reasons that only after IoT networks are codified and established under a reference architecture can we expect to see IoT spark the global revolution it has long promised. This whitepaper offers key insights and an in-depth understanding of how IoT architecture is critical to business transformation.
Download the complete whitepaper at https://www.hcltech.com/white-papers/iotworks/iot-reference-architecture-guide
IoT WoRKSTM, a dedicated IoT business unit of HCL Technologies, enables organizations to create best–in–class business solutions by maximizing effectiveness and returns on their asset investments. These solutions enable IoT led business transformation through creation of more efficient business processes, new revenue streams and business models that deliver measurable business outcomes.