Every time a new technology comes along that shows promise for business, companies aggressively kick off studies and pilot projects. A proportion of these first projects fail. We saw it with client/server computing and again with data warehousing. It’s happening today with large-scale IoT projects.
The good news is that each failed project can still be a lesson, which will eventually lead to more IoT projects succeeding. We will get to a point where we have more robust and flexible technology tools and platforms, better teams in place to handle external upsets, and a much better understanding of how we should run enterprise-scale, business-positive IoT projects.
How to Not Kill Your IoT Project
We recently finished a survey of 1,845 business IoT leaders, and found that 60% of IoT initiatives stalled at the proof-of-concept stage. Of the 40% of IoT projects that survived into the pilot stage, only 26% were deemed successful by business leaders.
Based on hundreds of conversations with our customers, and analysis of their work, we’ve identified two main failure points for IoT projects:
1. Integration Complexity. IoT projects blend existing networking platforms, data-gathering tools, and computing resources in new ways. They also integrate completely new products and services. These new systems have to put the right data in the right hands at the right time, and they have to do that at scale and at speed. Some companies build their own fundamental technologies in this vacuum. I applaud the DIY mindset for these projects, but data shows that it’s a dangerous path.
2. Lack of Internal Expertise. To use new technology, your teams need new skills. For line-of-business projects that must combine with IT, you need new kinds of collaboration. We’ve found that the more diverse your team, the better the likelihood of a positive outcome. IoT projects today are complex and there aren’t a lot of experienced people around to support them. That makes the hand-off from project creation to integration a difficult transition.
Over time, business will solve for these issues. It won’t be easy or simple, but the business advantages of strategic IoT projects will pull improvements through the process. In our survey, 64% said they took what they’ve learned so far from failed projects and accelerated their investment in IoT. And 61% of our respondents agreed that they have “barely begun to scratch the surface” of what IoT can do for their business.
That optimism makes a lot of sense. IoT tools will get more robust and easier to manage. More projects based on them will have positive business outcomes.
Cisco will help businesses get to this point by building more intelligence into the network itself, and by releasing tools that pull technology components and business processes together. And we’re going to do it in a way that’s manageable for the real world.
Announcing Cisco’s Solution
That’s what the Cisco IoT Operations Platform is all about. We announced this initiative earlier today at our IoT World Forum event in London.
There are three components to the new platform, which we’ll be rolling out to wide distribution later this year:
First, Connection Management at Scale: We’re building a platform to manage the exploding number of IoT devices that are coming online. Cisco is the leader in connection management – our very first product was a multiprotocol router – and we are working with several industry partners. These new tools will make it easier to spin-up and maintain huge fleets of connected devices from unified applications.
Second, Fog Computing to make sure that data processing and device control happens at the right place for each job, especially as the needs of jobs change in real-time. Cisco created Fog Computing years ago. Since then, we’ve been working to bring computing closer to the action when it is called for, to put data to work for your business where it can have the biggest impact.
Finally, Data Delivery: Once we give our customers a grip on their networks of devices, we’re going to help them collect, collate, and act on the data these systems are generating. Scalable tools for filtering and distribution will ensure the right data streams go to the right networks, applications, data stores, and people.
These three components are built upon a strong foundation of security through Cisco’s Threat Defense solution. And to round out the system, we looked at how communications between machines and humans could be integrated better into environments.
Without a coherent set of tools like this, the real world will continue to get in the way of IoT deployments. With current tools, there’s not enough technical talent to get most projects to make the leap from prototype to production. There’s often not enough capacity or reliability in the network, either. Our customers tell us that without tools that address these business issues, projects will continue to stall.
We’ve been working to solve these issues behind the scenes with automotive and industrial manufacturing partners for a while now. But it’s time to move our own projects from concept into the real world. General availability of Cisco’s IoT Operations Platform begins later this year.
Want to talk IoT? Find me on Twitter @rowantrollope
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May 25, 2017 at 8:48 am
The only challenge to the whole concept laid out is that Cisco has a lack of experience bringing IoT solutions home, itself. I conducted research on this very topic several years ago underwritten by Cisco with similar high level takeaways. However the number 1 takeaway that is not addressed is Solution Integration. IoT projects have a circular flow of information, begins at the sensor and makes its way through the pipe, to the app, through the cloud, to the analytics engine, with action to the user and back to the sensor. It’s complex stuff. It’s like Moore’s Law met Metcalf’s Law, hooked up for a time with Shannon’s law….and turned into Kurzweil’s law. Freidman, meet Drucker. It takes an ecosystem to pull this stuff off, and it appears that Cisco’s IoT Operations Platform is a great start, but @rowantrollope, one would hope this is just a start.
May 25, 2017 at 11:05 pm
Great thought process. Largely, the IOT ecosystem is the inter-connected scheme of small devices, sensors, gateways, cloud, web and mobile devices. The industry has spent almost two decades maturing the cloud, web and mobility. Now, it is time to identify the challenges that industry will face when billions of IOT devices are deployed. I agree, based on first hand experience, that it is relatively easy to prototype or even deploy a small set of POCs, but deploying, managing, and scaling a large number of these headless, resource constrained, low powered devices, while keeping the cost low, present an entirely different set of challenges. I would also emphasize that for IOT devices, security should never be an after thought. Just imagine the attack surface from a cyber security point of view. Keeping the IOT ecosystem secure yet simple to operate should happen from the get go so that it remains relevant for the end users. This will require new technologies and policies. I would go out on limb to say that DIY and KickStarters of the world have pushed the envelope and brought the experience to the forefront for early adopters and experimenters to get a feel of the future potential, but yes that experience ends at the prototype and POC levels. Making it a scalable product and then a viable business is an altogether different ball game. The silver lining is that technology is lending itself to make the device and user management possible, but definitely more work needs to be done. I have had a few successes and the likes of Cisco can bring the deployment scale to streamline the bottlenecks. I’m on the IOT2020 party bus. Cheers.