Five reasons why system integrators are critical assets for the IIoT
2017 is the year of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the system integrator community will play the most crucial role in this transition. However, most old-school system integrators are skeptical about IoT and IIoT technologies. They consider it to be a hyped and confusing term and is not worth getting into or invest their time. They are usually busy with their current projects and have reservations about committing/allocating resources for a new technology, which they may not have dealt with till now. The adoption of IoT might also involve skills and resources on software development front, a grey area for many system integrators strong on operational technologies. Since the integrator mostly interacts with the shop floor stakeholders, it can be a hinderance when IoT decisions are made by corporate business teams.
These challenges make integrators unaware of the potential benefits and opportunities that the IoT brings to their business. The IIoT is transforming the industrial landscape and system integrators who add it to their core business offerings can have a powerful effect on their bottom line for enterprises in five ways.
1. The IoT is an ecosystem project. IoT is a complex organism with many parts—sensors, gateways, the platform, analytics engine and enterprise/business apps. No single vendor can offer a complete end-to-end solution that can cover all of this. Even if a single vendor would offer these, then they would be stunted by the level of compatibility needed to work across the system. IoT is all about unlimited possibilities, bringing disparate devices, control systems, protocols and enterprise systems under one big umbrella and this herculean task determines the success of the IoT project. This makes a system integrator, with their experience of assembling and kickstarting equipment and software made by different vendors during different eras, the ideal person to make everything work.
2. Connectivity across departments. Currently, the information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) departments work in silos with hardly any information being shared, much less in real time. These functions have their own enterprise systems, which operate in different formats. However, the vision of IoT is to have a connected business intelligence across the enterprise that transcends the boundaries between departments. The data from IoT systems needs to be populated across the existing enterprise systems to unlock maximum potential from it. The data also helps the boardroom to take actionable insights on critical issues, based on real-time data. The system integrator serves as an ideal mediator because they already contribute to the enterprise system.
3. Start small and scale. The complexity of the IoT project often means that the end user prefers to start small and then scale it up. They usually start with a proof-of-concept or a small goal oriented problem and then expand across departments. While the other vendors may have issues with starting small and then scaling huge, integrators are ideally positioned to provide scale to the end user’s businesses and thus are valuable for the ecosystem. They have a good understanding of the plant setup, current challenges, and bottlenecks from scalability perspective. This is particularly important for a large sized global enterprise, that wishes to implement IoT plant by plant and benchmark the performance plant-wise, machine-wise and asset wise.
4. Domain knowledge. Typically, the IoT solution providers have in-depth knowledge about the technology and its facets, but not the implementation. They may have some understanding of the problems and issues, but they have little deep knowledge of the applications and the business. The integrator often has years of experience working in the same domain and ha a deep understanding of the business, its processes, and applications. Due to their exposure to multiple projects and verticals, they know how to build a business case, how to phase a project so that the customer can handle their most pressing issues immediately and build up to additional benefits. Many times, they have vertical expertise as well, and their deep understanding of the business drivers can improve the IoT application design and make it more valuable to the business.
5. Trust factor. IoT is uncharted territory for most enterprises and they are hesitant to entrust a new set of vendors with an unused technology for achieving their critical goals. This is why integrators are useful because they already have a relationship with enterprises because they already have an established and trusted relationship with them.
As the scope and demand for the IIoT increases, the role of integrators in bridging the gap between the solution providers and their targeted marketing segments will be increasingly important. In the age of collaborative manufacturing, the hardware and software vendors with the most robust integrator will be the one to lead the IIoT game.
Abhijit Mhetre, global marketing head, Altizon Systems. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Altizon: Altizon Systems is an IIoT platform company creating connected intelligence for enterprises. Using its flagship Datonis IIoT platform, its driving rapid business outcomes through solutions that enable smart manufacturing, modernize asset performance management, and pioneer new business models for service delivery. The Datonis IIoT platform accelerates IT/OT integrations by helping quickly connect diverse industrial assets and launching new applications over a hybrid infrastructure with edge computing, advanced in-stream analytics and deep learning capabilities. An award-winning company, Altizon, has global partner ecosystem and is recognized by reputed analyst firms like BCG, Forrester, is an alum of the Microsoft Accelerator and most recently cited by Gartner as a leading global IoT platform vendor. Altizon is a CSIA member.