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Embracing IoT

Embracing IoT

Swapna Bapat - Senior Product Manager -Enterprise Segment Lead, Cisco Systems India

Co-author : Anand Oswal - Senior Director Engineering, Cisco Systems India

The article was published in MouseworldNow

"The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow." - Bill Gates

When Bill Gates wrote this, little did he imagine that the Internet which acted as a common place for people to share information would also have non-human elements walking its paths!

Clearly in the 21st century the Internet has become as vital as air and water to our daily lives, connecting things, people, and data together. From being a "good to have" to becoming a "must have" the Internet today acts as the conduit for sharing information, providing quality healthcare and education besides being critical for enterprises to run their businesses efficiently. The power of this network of networks is growing exponentially and heading into an era which will not be about what connects to the internet but more about what value those connections make possible.

The growth of the Internet has been unprecedented and driven by advances in mobile technology, the "bring your own device" (BYOD) trend, dramatic increase in processing power, storage, and bandwidth at ever-lower costs; the rapid growth of cloud, social media etc, the number of things connected to the Internet is approximately 10 billion today, putting us in the age of the Internet of Things (IoT).

As highways, buildings, farms, satellites, solar panels, cars, milk cartons, cows practically everything connect to the Internet, the connections between people, between people and machines, and between machines themselves will help turn data into actionable information. Referred to as the "Internet of Everything," (IoE) this will result in in richer experiences and unprecedented value for individuals, businesses, communities and countries. IoE will become the driver and not an enabler for businesses to make data based

  • investment decisions,
  • Go to Market strategy definition
  • Marketing decisions

The benefits of connecting "things" to a network have both economic and social benefits. That is also reason why a key part of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi's development plan is the Digital India initiative where by a digital infrastructure will be provided as a utility to each citizen.

In order to understand the benefits of IoE let us consider two examples.


(Wireless foetal monitoring system: Source: www.ideaconnection.com)

There are a number of villages in India where medical care is non-existant. The villagers might not have a hospital to go to, but since most of them have mobile phones, they can use a small wireless device to access the Internet and connect virtually to a doctor for remote consultation. The data gathered from villages over time will help doctors in bettering healthcare in villages by looking at patterns of a certain symptom based on geography, age or other local factors. This in turn would help them plan for preventive medicinal methods.

(source: www.vorne.com}

The manufacturing industry in India is thriving and with the new Government initiative for increasing investments in manufacturing, a healthy growth is expected. Manufacturing contributes 13% (http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NV.IND.MANF.ZS) to India's GDP and is expected to contribute upto 20%+ in the next 2 years Margins in manufacturing are dependent on the ability to very closely control variable costs. With labor and material delivery largely out of control, the factory owner has direct ownership of the floor. Maintaining an accurate view of efficiencies of each machine on the floor and resulting productivity metrics is essential to running a profitable business.

Consider the example of a biscuit manufacturer. Every machine component in the assembly line required to build dough balls, bake the biscuits and package them have targets on quantities - number of dough balls to be made in an hour, target temperature at which each biscuit must be removed from the oven to taste perfectly etc. These target metrics are negotiated by the biscuit factory with the machine manufacturer. Every machine operator has a view of the machine assembly and knows the machine level report for which he/she is responsible for. However the owner of the biscuit factory does not have a complete view on loss of revenue if one or more of the machines in the factory under perform. The view is achieved manually and much later for corrective measures to be taken. Now let us say data on temperature, ingredient amount (flour, sugar etc), number of dough balls created etc are sent to a centralized system. Data is tagged with a machine ID, collated and analyzed to generate the business impact. For example, one such analytic generated could be - 2 machines are currently under-performing (as compared to what the manufacturer promised), and this will result in $200K loss of revenue. This kind of information delivered in run time would allow quick decision making and corrective actions.

Taking the example one notch lower, every plant creating the biscuits, would have a mixer in which quantified amount of ingredients such as flour, sugar and milk would need to be added. In case any one of these ingredients is not added in the right proportion, the output would not be satisfactory and the batch would need to be thrown away. So how much revenue did the plant loose? How many biscuits were supposed to be produced by the machine, and how many were actually produced? A solution monitoring each of the mixers would in run time be able to inform the plant owner on predicted loss of revenue. While corrective actions would be planned, a backup plan could be put in place to ensure delivery time lines are not compromised and very precious time is saved.

Creating a solution for each machine to report this data to a central system requires a robust and secure network. The data is extremely important and any loss of the data cannot be allowed. A secure network with encryption and authentication prevents any compromise of the data being carried. A robust virtualized application hosted on a highly available Data Center architectures allow for continuous availability of the data. Unlike older technologies, the use of IP in the LAN environment of the factory floor allows a highly fault tolerant network solution. Access mediums such as wireless allow plant personnel mobility, and create a collaborative environment to share reports, and quickly make business impacting decisions.

Moving from one factory to multisite monitoring requirements, there is more dependency on the underlying network infra-structure to provide security and agility to run the manufacturing business.

The underlying infrastructure should support rapid addition and decommissioning of locations. The network to Data center interconnect should optimize the BW utilization across WAN for such mutli-site deployments. The Data center itself should be able to support the native enterprise applications (CRM, ERP etc) as well as allow deployment of new analytics applications. Connecting the machines to an intelligent network and analyzing the data from the machines to provide key performance indicators of the machine floor would allow run time decision making and business agility - much needed elements to run a successful manufacturing plant.

in order to receive the most value from IoE, business leaders should begin transforming their organizations based on key learnings from use cases that show how IoE works in the real world. With the large number of connections required to be made among people, data, and things, companies must assess their strengths and weaknesses in technology skillsets, business process management, data analytics, connectedness, and security. Firms will also need to consider internal cultural changes that are necessary to embrace IoE.

IoE allows a better quality of life. Information intelligently derived from IoE allows for businesses to have granular visibility into processes, behaviors and operations. This visibility and reach of IoE will allow for a more productive India.

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