By Randy Field
"Problems are only opportunities in work clothes." — Henri J. Kaiser, an American industrialist
Many legacy telematics and M2M users are experiencing the single or double whammy impact of wireless network sunsets and the end of legacy software program support. While each service provider will recommend their next generation and, in many cases, minimize the replacement cost, these upgrades are just the tip of the migration cost iceberg. Assets with life spans of 10 to 30 years and more are being forced to upgrade with next generation modems and software programs after as little as 5 years. Over this period, a new, longer-life generation of service delivery has evolved and created many business “transformation” benefits: the Internet of Things (IoT).
Business transformation goes deeper than hardware, software and communication upgrades. It impacts processes and culture. Products evolve into features with use cases that can create value in new and unexpected ways. For the Industrial IoT (IIOT) world, this evolution translates into new connected ecosystems integrating edge devices such as meters, waste receptacles, vending machines, generators, and numerous other devices.
Four legged animals start walking on two hind legs. Hieroglyphics give way to speech. Telematics and M2M create the genetic pool of "things" embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that give pause to take a “strategic” look at using IoT innovations for lower operational costs, improve customer service, lower risks and new revenue streams using “big data”.
We are conditioned to exist in the “tactical” world of product life cycles. One generation ends, the next generation begins. As with Moore’s law, use case requirements push innovation to the next level. The market evolves. Transformation does not necessarily require new service providers. Legacy hardware and service providers are delivering purpose-built IoT solutions.
If you are not already discussing IoT transformation, now is the time. All markets are being impacted. Geo-located, fixed assets have joined legacy mobile asset management solutions. The combination creates complete operational ecosystems that can deliver real-time, enterprise information to the mobile worker.
Culturally, today’s blue collar, mobile workers are knowledge workers. They have used personal computers for over 35 years – plus, smart phones, edge devices (Bluetooth, WiFi) and GPS navigation in their personal lives. It is time to collect real-time data from the industrial edge and empower the “edge worker” to manage their workday.
As an example, a contractor uses diesel generators on its jobsites. The generator engine should be serviced every 400 hours or 6 months, whichever comes first. The contractor creates a preventive maintenance program based on average usage of his or her equipment and provides field maintenance on a regular schedule. In reality, the generator has operated too many hours or too few – plus, the technician has to find the generator. Installing an engine runtime sensor and wireless data communication in the generator allows it to alert when servicing is required and provides its location. This simple IoT connection reduces break/fix cost, improves edge worker efficiency –and, provides valuable operational data.
There are two types of technology: if and when. The IIoT is a “when” technology. It is not a matter of “if” edge device integration will affect your market – only, “when”. Look back at other transformative technologies: fax machines, computers, word processors, cell phones, tablets – and, mobile resource management to name a few. When did you incorporate those new technologies into your business: before or after your competitors forced the integration, when break/fix costs became too high – or, when your operating systems were obsolete?
IIoT is the next transformation technology and it is here today. The lifetime cost of retaining legacy solutions might be much higher than implementing an IoT solution and lock you out of the other resultant gains. The ROI is real. Once you realize that a new solution can improve your business, you are already paying for it – you are just paying too much.