Internet of Things: walk before you can run

I came across this article posted on Forbes yesterday about the Internet of Things (IoT) and its crucial link with enterprise mobility.

It struck a chord with me because it states that before businesses can really harness the true power of IoT, they need the right foundations in place. The ‘right foundations’ being a powerful enterprise mobility platform, which is something that I truly agree with.

For those of you not familiar with the term ‘enterprise mobility’ – it’s the ability for employees to be able to interact with enterprise applications and the information stored within them, on any mobile device, at any location, at any time. By doing so, it ensures that employees are completely connected to the business while working outside of the office and can collect job data and report this back in real time. Online or Offline, on any modern mobile device , from smartphone to tablet to laptop. From Apple to Android to Windows.

This is crucial for remote workers who are not bound by a desk or an office.

I was surprised by the statistic that ‘80% of companies could not access their maintenance management software from a mobile device,’ since maintenance staff present one of the strongest use cases for enterprise mobility and IoT, especially within facilities management.

If employees don’t have access to their key software via mobile devices, how do companies expect IoT to improve their efficiency and service levels? It seems as though we are all caught up in IoT as a buzzword, with very few organisations actually having the infrastructure in place to harness its power.

An organisation with siloed workers and siloed applications is in no fit shape to implement an IoT strategy. If its workers aren’t connected in the first place, how will a device be able to communicate with them to carry out an action?

Imagine a warehouse containing industrial freezers. IoT sensors have been placed in each freezer to monitor temperature levels. If the temperature rises above a critical level, an alert is fired off. However if there is no mobile strategy in place, where does that alert go? What instructions are provided with that alert? If an engineer arrives, how will they quickly access the maintenance history of that freezer? If a new part is needed to fix the freezer, how will they request or order that part? How will they ensure that the job is invoiced? And so on…

They put it perfectly when they say, “The largest barrier to digital transformation may have nothing to do with connected things but connected people.”

It’s therefore essential that organisations learn how to walk before they can run and in the case of IoT, that means getting the right framework in place so that they can harness the full transformational power that this technology has to offer.

Turkeys voting for Christmas?

I read that Tom Tom have surveyed a number of firms that are “under using” their investments in technology. I find this unsurprising, as users and managers often see tech as disruptive, awkward and “not as good as the old way”

Why not embrace technology ? Spend time training yourself (YouTube anyone?) rather than waiting for a course. Invest your own time in becoming more tech savvy and then help your colleagues. I have more apps on my phone than anyone in our business, just because I like to look for new tech – and find better ways of doing things. Hotels,com, OpenTable, Outlook and Spotify are just a part of my day now.

So, why the reference to Turkeys? Well, if you see tech as replacing your role, why not find another role, or make an investment in you AND tech – or, of course, form an escape committee…

The Smiling Eskimo

In this article published last week, it was reported that Alaska Airlines is making significant cost savings and productivity gains through its mobile transformation programme.

By ‘mobile transformation programme’, Derek Chan (Manager of Alaska Airlines Mobile and User Experience) refers to the 12,000+ smart devices and 50+ business applications it has rolled out to employees across various departments within the organisation.

Chan mentions how, “with the swipe of a finger or tap of an app, each step is being signed off in real-time, as soon as it’s complete. The customer service agent no longer needs to walk down the jet way to the flight attendant with paperwork, after waiting for the information to be printed from a machine in a different location.”

When quizzed about the return on investment from the mobile transformation, Chan said that it all comes down to time. “Time savings lead to money; if we save one minute, it leads to ‘x’ amount of dollars – that’s where we see our return on investment.”

This statement really resonated with me.

Particularly since we heard on Wednesday that productivity growth in the UK has been revised down by an average of 0.7% a year up to 2023.

We can debate all we like about the possible reasons behind the UK’s low productivity rate, but essentially it comes down to a whole host of factors – with low adoption of technology and innovation being a major contributory factor.

As highlighted in CBI’s recent report, “it’s the low take-up of readily available technologies and management best practices that is driving the UK’s productivity problem. In 2015, the proportion of UK firms adopting cloud computing was nearly 30 percentage points below Europe’s best performers.”

In the past, businesses shied away from the adoption of new technology as it often involved large-scale projects, costing vast sums and taking years to complete. Often with no guarantee of the desired outcome.

However with the huge rise of hosted, software as a service models (SaaS) – businesses have the advantage of being able to ‘dip their toe in the water’ and try out new technologies at a fraction of the time and cost of their predecessors. Also without needing any of the required infrastructure or hosting.

Furthermore, SaaS models have the additional advantage that they can be simply turned off if they don’t function correctly or be easily tweaked and modified to fit the requirements of the organisation.

Alaska Air is one business where one can see the increase in productivity and revenue through a progressive attitude to tech. In this case mobility in completing paperwork. The Eskimo on their tail fins must be smiling….




Magpies & Ostriches – which are you ?

The CBI have printed a report here which highlights a problem that we see all the time. failure to adopt, failure to move, paralysis in fear of the unknown.  Some organisations seem to think that a bad “known” is better than a complete “unknown” . What about the “unknown unknowns” (per Donald Rumsfeld) ?

Of course with technology now available as a service the old adages of “2 years and $2 million” on software projects do not apply (if organisations have any sense) – so organisations can now simply turn off the tap marked “Cost” if apps or tech do not function correctly .

I have always found huge parts of industry to be like an Ostrich – and a pretty frightened Ostrich at that . Tech solutions and apps can revolutionize the way we do things, we see that from Tesco deliveries to mobile banking to flight tickets. Of course the Ostrich is a flightless bird…..

Ready made apps ?

I read with interest this article on why ready made apps are a potential solution for the “lag” between the time it takes enterprise “apps” to be commissioned and rolled out . One premise is that such apps take, perhaps, four months or more to get to the users. I would really emphasis the “or more” and also include “the 12th of never”.

I don’t believe however that non IT types will be knocking out apps on the fly, at least not without consequences to end users. It is relatively easy to create an app these days. My music school has recently created one, but the very nice chap (Hi Dan) has run into some difficulties in the process, that a development house would be able to sort out very quickly.

My view is that apps will become truly cross platform, truly web friendly and even more prevalent that they are today – I really do believe, however that organisations need to think through security, data protection, scalability etc before rushing to the conclusion that a ready made app will solve their problems …

Supply chain security in Pharma

I have heard some awful stories regarding the impact of counterfeiting in the pharma industry . To focus on two areas, the issue of sugar pills as “contraceptives” and a solution of molasses being consumed as “antimalarials” are both horrendous situations with (somewhat) obvious consequences.

The pharma industry is struggling to implement track and trace solutions which deal with end to end data management of medicines. I think that the struggle will continue indefinitely unless governments, the industry, regulators et al commit to some real world solutions, not theoretical and unrealistic goals.

We have worked with APEC and a worldwide regulatory organisation and have successfully traced fake medicines in a number of locations in Africa and Asia. Our solution is tactical and is producing real benefits, identifying counterfeits on a smartphone by medical professionals on location.

I am a passionate believer that tactical solutions can be rolled out quickly , effectively and show real return on investment as well as , in the extreme, saving lives.

RX360 , ( where Crimson Tide is a member, is a great advocate for patient safety, and their work really allows “big pharma” to make “big changes” to protect and enhance the supply chain .