The Internet of Things (IoT) has gone from being a buzzword to a concept we see in our everyday lives. Phones have a variety of sensors that gather large amounts of data.
Houses, cars, and machines are smarter than what they used to be. In many businesses today IoT is described as ‘’the next battlefield’’. It is shifting from being a technology to a key enabler of digital transformation.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
IoT is a system involving connected devices that gather data, connect with the internet or local network, generate analytics and adapt behaviour based on the analytics in the network. An IoT system is made up of sensors, networks and analytics. IoT can and will bring numerous benefits to businesses in the coming years.
The importance of this concept is being accepted by individuals and businesses; there exist obstacles to IoT adoption which have kept adoption slow in Africa and very slow in Nigeria. With detailed planning and the right partnerships, awareness and a clear understanding of project outcomes, none of these challenges can’t be overcome.
Challenges in IoT adoption in Nigeria
1. Culture: Traditional thinking and methods remain the biggest challenge in IoT adoption in Nigeria. Resistance to change and new technology is the norm. According to Mckinsey’s survey of global executives, three digital-culture deficiencies are common: functional and departmental silos, a fear of taking risks, and difficulty forming and acting on a single view of the customer. Awareness and government policies can help change it. Thanks to the G7 and EU for the Emerging Africa Leaders program helping create awareness and spur the transition to the next production revolution.
2. Legacy Machines: ‘’If it is not broken, don’t fix it’’ is the norm in the industrial sector. Equipment has been maintained and used for many years. These equipment remain a major part of the industrial environment because replacing them would cost millions of Naira, an expense companies find hard to justify when the existing machine works perfectly. Legacy machines sometimes prove difficult to work with new technologies. However, a strong IoT partner will see to interoperability of these machines.
3. Connectivity: Wired connectivity is not strange to the industrial environment, so with IoT on wireless connectivity this may be a change in the network infrastructure design. The use of wireless networking may raise security concerns.
4. Financing: Financing is very important as IoT is relatively a financially heavy project. Presenting theoretical cases which are not yet implemented in the facility and convincing management of funding is challenging. It is imperative to consider not only the upfront investments but also the longer-term cost requirements of managing, maintaining and expanding. We advocate clear outcomes for projects and the business unit deploying the IoT project be responsible for not less than 70% of the funds required.
5. Skills: Having the right human resources is the most important for any project to be successful. Questions like ‘’who will make it happen?’’ The skills for an IoT project according to IBM range from system architects with a detailed knowledge of the operating and business environments, systems integration specialists who can facilitate the implementation of hardware into the business environment, back-end engineers and data analysts and scientists.
6. Vendors and Partnerships: Having the right vendor/partner is very important for any IoT deployment and for scale. This is because the right vendor provides the most suitable platform for an IoT project. Partnerships cut across the hardware, software and telecommunication companies through to engineering and industrial companies.
7. Security: IoT security concerns any device, system or part of the IoT process flow where data is stored, transmitted and analyzed. Equipment is hackable if the network can be accessed, this affects the production process.
Opportunities and benefits in IoT
The asset-rich industries such as oil and gas stand to benefit more from the opportunities the Industrial Internet of Things presents us with. Several critical assets can be remotely monitored and many manual processes automated. These businesses can leverage a twin to predict how an asset will behave thus preventing downtime.
1. Automation: IoT presents a direct replacement of manual processes. Factory and production floors need not be monitored via pen and paper. Machines equipped with sensors can gather data in real-time and perform monitoring with higher accuracy and efficiency.
2. Predictive Maintenance: The reality in the business environment is that machines fail. When they do, they don’t just impact the present work but also the future. Being able to monitor equipment to prevent them from failing saves the business time and money. Materials do not get spoiled and secondary damage is avoided.
3. Higher Outputs: Predictive maintenance helps manufacturers produce goods with higher quality, being able to reduce the number of spoiled finished goods, the yield increases as a result of an increase in production line efficiency.
4. Digital Twins: This is a benefit I find most interesting. Digital twins allow the modelling of a physical asset but without any risk to the physical asset. Being able to perform all types of tests on a virtual machine is a very strong benefit. It will save time, and money for any project.
5. Asset Tracking: Being able to track the location and expected arrival of materials in the supply chain is a very useful application of IoT. This will help enterprises in their planning, give them greater knowledge and control of the supply chain, and enable them act on potential problems that may occur in logistics.
Value of IoT
Analytics is becoming a mainstream in IoT projects. Before now, much focus was on the hardware and connectivity. This is fast changing. An Analytics solution is an integral part of an IoT project.
Data harnessed from connected processes are analyzed, interpreted and used to drive operations and strategic decisions. Data-driven decisions are key to making any meaningful business outcome.
An efficient analytics platform turns data into useful insights that reveal hidden information, opportunities and possible areas for change and improvement.