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Data orchestration: The key to accelerating IoT digital transformation

It’s hard to judge the development of IoT to date as anything but a success story. According to IoT Analytics, there were 7 billion IoT devices worldwide in 2018, a number that is expected to grow to 22 billion by 2025. A key reason for this growth is IoT’s ability to help enterprises implement digital transformation strategies that enhance productivity, improve customer experiences, uncover insights and create new business models. Today, shippers are delivering products faster and more efficiently using supply chain visibility applications that collect data from internet-connected trucks and shipping containers. Utilities are making the grid greener and more reliable using IoT applications that monitor and control smart meters, energy storage systems and other distributed energy resources. Farmers are making agriculture more efficient and sustainable with soil- and crop-monitoring connected agriculture IoT applications.

Given IoT’s ability to enable enterprises in practically every industry to streamline operations, generate valuable insights and offer new services, one might be surprised that IoT has yet to become an even larger part of businesses’ digital transformation efforts. One reason for the relatively slow rollout of new IoT applications is that many enterprises are finding it hard to develop, commercialize and scale these applications. These difficulties are related to the same problem: the complexity and very large number of elementary building blocks that need to be pieced together for IoT applications. However, a new strategy — IoT data orchestration — simplifies IoT infrastructure in a way that is similar to how the cloud has tied together and simplified IT infrastructure. With data orchestration, enterprises can cut through the complexity of IoT, moving IoT from a supporting to a leading role in their digital transformation strategies.

The complexity of IoT

Enterprises often approach IoT applications expecting them to be very similar to web or smartphone applications, but in many ways they are much more complicated. With IoT applications, enterprises need expertise in a wide variety of different IoT devices, as well as expertise in embedded software, wireless connectivity and cloud software and services. They also need to understand how to integrate all these technologies together in a seamless and secure way that can be scaled globally.

Another reason why IoT applications are complex is that they often rely on low-power IoT devices with bandwidth limitations. Extracting data from these devices is not as simple as extracting it from computers or devices with high-bandwidth, always-on, unmetered connections and unlimited power supplies. With low-power IoT devices, if you try to capture all this data, you will use up these devices’ limited battery power and data bandwidth in a short amount of time, which is generally not compatible with these devices’ use cases. In addition, updating these devices with new security or other software patches can quickly consume their batteries or exceed their data allowance.

Scaling IoT applications brings with it other complexities. Moving from an IoT application pilot to a global rollout requires an enterprise to manage thousands, if not millions, of different types of devices on different wireless networks. With enough time and resources, enterprises can improvise ways to solve these problems. However, in doing so they are likely to sacrifice agility, take security shortcuts and invest significant resources, lowering these applications’ ROI.

Orchestrating IoT data from device to cloud

Enterprises need IoT data orchestration if they hope to overcome the complexity challenges that are preventing them from making IoT applications a larger part of their digital transformation strategies.

What is IoT data orchestration? IoT data orchestration provides enterprises with a prebuilt, end-to-end platform that includes all the components needed for distributed IoT connectivity: edge and cloud processing, cloud services, end-to-end security and global wireless connectivity. By integrating all of these components together into a single platform, IoT data orchestration makes it quicker and easier for enterprises to build and test new IoT applications, as they no longer need to acquire the expertise needed to build the infrastructure required for these applications.

IoT data orchestration also offers enterprises the ability to easily and dynamically determine and control what IoT data needs to be processed, extracted and transmitted without overly taxing IoT devices’ battery power or unnecessarily using limited bandwidth. Data can be processed either at the edge or in the cloud, using the same framework, so that decisions can be made and action taken at the best place for them to be. With IoT data orchestration, web developers — who are usually unfamiliar with embedded development — can easily create or modify distributed IoT applications. By collapsing device, network and cloud into a single layer, IoT data orchestration also enables seamless integration of IoT application data directly into ERP, customer relationship management and other cloud-based applications so it can be processed and analyzed for valuable insights.

In many ways, IoT data orchestration will simplify IoT infrastructure in the same way that cloud services simplified IT infrastructure. Virtualization, exponential improvements in processing and network capacity, and other technological innovations enabled companies like Amazon and Microsoft to deliver enterprises cloud services that were extremely easy to deploy, use and scale. With storage, networking and computing delivered to them as a single, integrated service, the cloud allowed enterprises to avoid dealing with many of the complexities related to IT infrastructure. This dramatically simplified IT, delivering enterprises the agility they needed to quickly and inexpensively develop new web applications, and then rapidly and cost-effectively scale these applications, digitally transforming entire markets.

By tightly tying together devices, wireless networks and the cloud, IoT data orchestration will free enterprises from investing limited development resources in building the underlying infrastructure needed for IoT applications. It will also deliver them the agility and the access to the large developer population they need to reduce the time and expenses related to deploying, managing, scaling, updating and enhancing IoT applications and activating IoT data. With IoT data orchestration, enterprises will finally be able to fully incorporate IoT into their digital transformation strategies, using its unique ability to connect to practically anything to fundamentally transform how to create value for their customers and themselves.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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