Leveraging the capabilities of the Internet of Things (IoT) is critical for those aiming to maximise productive outputs from advances in technology. So what are Kiwi businesses doing with IoT, and how is it making a difference to the daily operations of New Zealand organisations?
Kiwi ingenuity at its finest
We’re the land of “number 8 wire”, and true to the essence of that – we do simplicity the best. That’s not to say our innovations aren’t impactful, it just may not always be spectacular or miraculous, but rather practical and convenient for the end user.
And one such example comes to mind for Nick Hadlee, Practice Manager of Enterprise Solutions at Intergen. He has a customer in the contract/maintenance business, who clean parks and other city assets, and they have a crew out in the field in vans, who are assigned jobs by mobile devices.
“One of their core business services is emptying bins, which means an employee visiting every bin on a regular basis to check them. So of course a potentially great development for them is a function in an App that can tell them when the bin needs to be emptied, so they only go there when required.”
This kind of development is rather basic, but has the potential to greatly minimise wasted time spent going to bins that don’t need attention, rather focusing on ones that do. By maximising productivity, the organisation will be able to do what it does in a much more efficient way. And of course, that’s what the basis of IoT is for.
The agricultural industry is also seeing significant transformation thanks to the capabilities of IoT, and a collaboration between Microsoft and Schneider Electric. The SCADAfarm solution provides farmers with an automated tool that not only saves them time, but helps to use less water and electricity, reduces outgoing costs, and ultimately increases yields.
Which industries are leading the way?
As with any industry, there are leaders in their field, who are usually the ones that decide to stand up and do something different. Hamish Dobson, also at Intergen as a Principal Solutions Architect, notes one client in the transportation industry who has actually changed their entire business model due to the introduction of IoT.
“Previously they created an expensive, large asset and sold those directly to customers. But now, using IoT technology, they rent those assets and charge for the utilisation of them.
“By exploring the opportunity to pivot their business model, and wrapping that up with predictive maintenance, they can now offer the same item at a much lower rate, making it more attractive to a wider range of customers.”
He sees the whole ‘pay as you go’ strategy as a strong growth area, with commercial products – such the Lime Scooters which are available in all the main centres of New Zealand – providing businesses with a whole new way of ‘doing business’.
“With IoT we can know where it is, how much it is being used, whether it has crossed any location boundaries, and can be accurately charged by the kilometre. IoT is ideal as a service for hardware – where assets are able to be moved around and distributed to people.”
Nick and Hamish note that manufacturing and in particular food production, have a huge opportunity to use IoT in a way that could revolutionise the supply chain. With IoT a product can be validated right through the end-to-end process of being made, and turning up in the supermarket. From monitoring the food grade, temperature and controlling any sensitivities, the consumer would be able to have a great insight into the product they are purchasing.
“This is a valuable asset for those organisations who want to have a leading edge,” says Nick.
“Certainly with food and other consumables, you can answer the questions that customers are asking, with certifications that it met those conditions.”
Where to begin with IoT?
Innovations are all well and great, but most businesses would be hard pressed to sit in a boardroom with a blank piece of paper and come up with something ingenious that will transform what they do, or how they do it. Which is why Nick says it is important to not start by looking for a problem to solve with the technology, but rather the other way around.
“It definitely needs to be about ‘user-first’, not hardware first. Rather than worrying about all the emerging technology, just be clear about your offering, look for ways to innovate.
“What are you trying to solve, and why – who are your consumers? Are they in the field, or in a control room? Whomever they are, you need to give them that data in a way that is actionable. Whether it is via a dashboard or an app, we need to make sure we are implementing a more user-centric view.”
And Hamish adds to this further.
“It’s trying to spot elements of a business that are ripe for disruption by asking questions and capturing information.
“How many manual activities do we do in our business? How hard is it to get my product to market? Do we need to go out onsite and check for the number of pallets, or inspect them visually in some way? And then once you have some of these questions answered, then you can look at IoT opportunities.
“And remember, what you work with doesn’t have to be expensive or complex, it could be as simple as a rubbish bin.”