Why services and people are important to the Internet of Things

ABB is driving the Internet of Things, Services and People (IoTSP). It is only when all these facets are considered together that real change will occur.

The IT industry started talking about IT/OT integration some years ago, with analysts like Gartner, IDC and ARC Advisory Group predicting that sharing information across the operations and information technology boundaries within an organization would drive improved business performance. References later changed to the Internet of Things (IoT), and some predictions have the number of connected devices in the world reaching 100 billion by 2020. The general media has also latched onto this hype and the thought of “smart” objects being able to change life as we know it – for example, an Internet-connected light bulb that can reproduce 16 million colors. (Is it just me, or was the last topic the general media latched onto an IT hype cycle with such fervor Y2K?). Then, vendors and analysts expanded references to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) as a way of defining a specific application of IoT.

Although I am a self-confessed “Gadget Tragic,” and have long subscribed to the point of view from the TV Series The Big Bang Theory that “Everything is better with Bluetooth,” I don’t know if being able to emit 16 million colors from my light bulb is actually going to change my life. However, what I do know is that connected devices within organizations are nothing new, and they have been around for many years. Companies like ABB have a very long and successful track record of helping customers improve efficiencies through automation and control systems around connected equipment within an operational environment. ABB and other automation and control system vendors also have a long and successful track record with the supply of IT systems to help customers improve and optimize their asset management strategies and operational support.

Part of the reason that these discrete systems (OT and IT) have evolved over time is because businesses tend to be structured in this way. These organizational structures also tend to have different and often conflicting measurements and goals which can drive distrust and reluctance when it comes to the sharing of information between different parts of the organization.

My experience has shown that not enough emphasis is given to the consideration of change control within organizations to truly recognize the value of integrating these IT and OT systems. Rather than provide a giant step change that requires a leap of faith upfront, providing a ramp to achieve benefits and help build trust across the organization will provide a better uptake of information sharing and instil ownership of the results, which will in turn provide better long-term outcomes. It’s a bit like the old joke: “How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? One, but the light bulb has to want to change.”

I recently read this IIoT/Industrie 4.0 Viewpoint blog by ARC and couldn’t agree more. In the blog, senior analyst Tim Shea shares that “ARC believes that IIoT also helps improve organizational collaboration, both within internal and external ecosystems, and culture – those two special intangibles that have a disproportionate positive impact on overall operational performance and help change corporate organizational dynamics for the better.”

At ABB, we are leading the way through the Internet of Things, Services and People. Only when all these facets are considered together that real change will occur. Just having connected devices producing data points is of little use, unless those data points can be acted upon in an impactful way. Real change  requires the application of deep domain knowledge and conversion of data into information that can be easily used and acted upon by people to help them focus on what is important and remove noise and distractions.

I’d be interested in your perspective. Please leave a comment here, or contact me directly for further discussion. Thanks!

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About the author

John Benders

I'm a senior vice president of product management at ABB. I've more than 30 years of enterprise software experience within asset-intensive industries such as mining, utilities, transportation and public infrastructure. Over the past 20 years, I've held various roles and responsibilities around enterprise asset management within ABB, ranging from the software development and the technical direction of products such as Ellipse, to helping guide our solutions towards cloud delivery and more streamlined deployment models.
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