Connecting Assets: 5 Things to Keep in Mind
Make sure your Connected Machine/Equipment project delivers real value – for you and your customer.
You want to connect your units in the field for an enhanced customer value proposition and an improved Services business case? There are many ways how your customers benefit from connected enterprise assets. Less downtime/higher utilization, insights into usage and performance and lower maintenance costs are some customer benefits.
Your business drivers are many. Connected assets are already helping to reduce costs and improve efficiency, for example by cutting warranty claims or decrease the cost of the Service delivery with proactive maintenance. Learn more how you can benefit here.
And delivering connected field-based assets at your customer’s sites is easier than ever before, particularly with the advent of simple yet powerful edge computing products. That said, there are 5 things you should consider before you start your connected asset project:
1. How will you collect all that data?
An Industrial IoT deployment can encompass a wide range of sensor hardware, protocols and data formats. Collecting all this data, in a way that allows you to offer services on new products as well as to an existing installed base, can be challenging.
Thus, it is important you make sure your conduit for connecting assets has extensive protocol support for data ingestion. Dealing with protocol translation and data normalization can be exhausting and time-consuming. Besides, there’s no real value in doing it yourself.
To overcome this problem, it makes sense to deploy technology at the edge that can collect data, normalize it, make sure it is homogenized so that it can fit a predefined data model, and then enrich it with the addition of meaningful metadata.
2. Have you thought about the connectivity and security?
How you connect your assets is likely to be one of your first decisions when embarking on a connected asset project. For this reason, it is important to spend some time evaluating your current network and IT infrastructure to make sure you have the connectivity and security you need in place for a smooth IoT rollout and operation.
Wireless technologies will need to offer the right levels of coverage, signal strength, and bandwidth. And you will need to confirm the network can cope with the increased traffic it will experience once your sensors start sending data. More importantly, be sure to identify where data should reside to ensure that the IoT architecture is scalable, secure and future-proof.
Part of this process will help you cover all of your bases such as making it possible for connected assets to carry on delivering value even if they are offline due to limited or unreliable connectivity to the cloud. Besides, if data can be processed without trips to the cloud, it’s certainly worth considering. Keeping things simple and efficient is something your operations teams will surely appreciate. The best way to do this is through edge computing, whereby data is analyzed and acted upon at the point of generation, without having to reach a data center.
3. Do you have a handle on costs?
Cutting the cost of the Service/aftermarket is often one aim of connected asset projects. But, naturally, there is a cost involved in implementing these projects. The biggest direct cost drivers are the cost of cloud services and of bandwidth. Before sending data to the cloud, it’s best to ask yourself whether it’s truly necessary. If you extract all the value from your data right where it’s generated, it’s a good option to consider.
The biggest indirect expense, meanwhile, is the lifecycle cost of the equipment. It’s one thing to deploy an IoT solution, it’s another to deploy one that can also be managed efficiently and cost-effectively over the lifecycle. More on that in a future blog.
Relying on a combination of easy-to-use edge and cloud platforms for functions such as smart orchestration lets you apply advanced data filtering, aggregation and compression techniques that improve the efficiency of your assets and thus cut your direct and indirect costs.
4. Can your systems talk to each other?
Many organizations face a challenge in overlaying connected assets onto legacy infrastructures for functions such as enterprise resource planning or customer relationship management because the two types of systems simply do not speak the same language.
Good edge technologies should provide connectors that can take the machine data and make it available upstream to enterprise systems to facilitate analysis, visualization and streamline existing business processes with newly generated intelligence.
This can be accomplished with an enterprise-focused platform that has been built to seamlessly integrate with cloud and enterprise systems out of the box. Well-built platforms will also offer well-documented APIs and SDKs that make it easy to extend the platform to domain-specific systems, legacy apps, and in-house solutions.
5. Are you investing in something secure and scalable?
You want your connected asset project to be a success. Which means that, in time, you will want to extend it and make sure it is immune to attacks. To do this, you should opt for a hardware-agnostic, scalable architecture and place special emphasis on security.
Scalability is not just about hardware costs or data volumes, but also about how you can best manage hundreds or thousands of connected assets in the field with the overhead costs.
For security, meanwhile, you can look to isolate IoT traffic from other parts of the network and only store the data that needs to be stored. If your assets are only sending data, rather than receiving it, then they are less likely to get infected.
Depending on your project, you may have other specific concerns, ranging from the footprint of the hardware to the potential for mass orchestration. But if you can take care of these top five issues, you will be well positioned to make sure your connected asset project is a success.