On Tuesday, September 20, LNS Research hosted the webcast, “The Role of Smart Connected Assets in Digital Transformation.” This presentation focused on how Digital Transformation initiatives and enabling technologies from Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Platforms enable organizations to evolve business models. It further explains the IIoT, Cloud, Big Data Analytics, and Mobility, and how these technology trends drive better communication, asset maintenance, and products and services that create greater business value.
Here are the most-asked questions we received during the presentation.
Q1. For a Smart Connected Assets project, who are all the right players or titles to include for the initiative?
A1. The important consideration is making sure you have a combined business and IT team at a leadership level. These are people that can mandate and implement change to an organization. We are now seeing new roles emerge to handle Digital Transformation initiatives, like Smart Connected Assets, as well. We wrote about this recently in our blog, “The Missing Link in Digital Transformation: The Chief Digital Officer.”
They reside in the business/operations side and are responsible for driving transformation efforts and bridging the divide between IT and OT. It is important to have a formal/structured team in place when driving projects like Smart Connected Assets forward; the changes for successful outcomes increase significantly when the appropriate team is in place.
Q2. Is there a special skill set required for a Smart Connected Assets initiative, such as statistical analysis or other skills?
A2. There was a lot of emphasis on Data Scientists when Smart Connected Assets and IIoT Platforms began to take shape over the last few years. The focus came down on the skills gap shortage that was occurring in manufacturing with the volume, velocity, and variety of data to handle for gaining insight on Big Data.
For the most part, existing skills and resources will suffice as far as the assets are concerned, but over the long term as these assets become more complex; new IT related skills will be required in conjunction with the typical maintenance skills. For example, we saw this skills transformation evolve in the auto repair industry as vehicles evolved with an increasing number of computers that required diagnostic software to correlate issues, but the technician still required repair skills to fix.
Q3. Is "Smart" similar to "Intelligent" or "Intelligence" in this context, or is it the next step?
A3. Becoming Smart & Connected is the first step towards Intelligence. We have large amounts of capital invested in existing asset infrastructure today. These assets have an opportunity to begin to provide information that resides in the asset, or with some added sensors to provide additional information to help understand its condition and when it may fail. The next step is Intelligence. New assets, already Smart & Connected have the potential for Intelligence, whether its self-diagnosing issues, order the correct part to be replaced (eliminating server people steps in the process), or sending feedback to the OEM to enhance the next version of itself. This is a longer term place, but we see the beginning of real-time operations of assets that influence future product designs at an ever quickening pace.
Q4. Are there vendors out there who really get the job done? Are their capabilities mature enough to handle today's needs?
A4. Yes. We see examples out in specific industries by vendors supporting their customers, guaranteeing uptime, or taking ownership of the asset itself by providing capacity. Many vendors have had After Market Service capabilities for years, but now with IIoT Platforms, they are gaining real-time insight into the condition of assets and can monitor them in real-time all over the world. This has improved response times so that the right people, tools, and parts are available to get their customers up and running faster than ever before. For the technology requirements to deliver this effective service, it will take a combination of providers. Organizations should look to companies that have a history of open solutions and strong partnerships.
Q5. If full funding becomes delayed for a comprehensive IIoT platform, should we wait or should we start with smaller point solutions and try to integrate them ourselves?
A5. We have seen organizations prove out success with small-scale or pilot projects. This seems to be the preferred way to establish the potential of Smart Connected Assets. Pick a few critical assets that you may not have had the insight into that you wish you had, look to a few vendors to understand what capabilities align with your needs and see which one’s show the most promise. This will allow organizations to create the foundation they need to create a business case and potentially gain larger funding for future projects.
Q6. For industries with critical assets - like nuclear power plants - should they delay when there are higher security concerns around Cloud or even hybrid Cloud?
A6. There is no doubt that organizations in the Nuclear power industry should heed caution when looking at a technology landscape, like IIoT. When looking at IIoT Platforms, all industries should make sure there is a security thread throughout the platform they choose. Each component of the IIoT Platform should have varying levels of security embedded. In most industries, this is more secure than their existing technology footprint and thinking of security. So, it would be a vast improvement. The nuclear industry and other critical infrastructure industries should consider private Clouds and data centers when embarking on this journey; most already have this existing hyper-secure IT infrastructure in place.
The webcast will be available on-demand on Tuesday, September 27.