How Organizations Are Putting Digital Transformation into Action
Early adopters have found success with a number of use cases that drive efficiency and deliver valuable insights.
IT leaders are intrigued by digital transformation, but many still haven’t figured out how to put it to work for their organization. Some organizations laid the groundwork with early Internet of Things (IoT) projects. Others can benefit by studying their successes and failures.
As enterprises look for effective, manageable entry points into digital transformation and IoT, they should consider use cases proven effective for organizations in their industries. Here are some of the most common — and valuable — ways businesses are already adopting innovative solutions.
Energy management/smart buildings: This is a use case that applies to organizations in practically all industries, as every dollar that can be saved from reductions in heating, cooling and water usage can be reinvested in the business. Additionally, many organizations undertake ambitious energy and water conservation efforts, and smart building programs can increase worker comfort. According to Intel, a smart building program can cut energy costs as much as 8 percent in the first year of implementation, with annual savings reaching up to 30 percent in subsequent years.
Predictive maintenance: With connected sensors, organizations can continuously monitor the condition of high-value and mission-critical equipment for signs of imminent failure, and then either proactively perform repairs or replace the equipment before it malfunctions. This not only decreases maintenance costs, but also prevents productivity losses by minimizing equipment downtime. Predictive maintenance is an especially important IoT use case for industries (such as the gas, oil and energy sectors) that require organizations to operate in remote environments where maintenance is a major challenge.
Predictive analytics: As organizations collect and analyze more data, they are finding ways to use this information to forecast vital variables such as customer needs and product demand. Better forecasting can help enterprises to get ahead of the market with their offerings, and can lead to manufacturing schedules, marketing campaigns and pricing strategies that allow them to match the type and quantity of their products and services to changing conditions on the ground. The data needed for effective predictive analytics programs can be gleaned from IoT components including video feeds, mobile geo-location, social media channels and log files.
Video surveillance and monitoring: Many businesses utilized security cameras for decades. By connecting IP-based cameras to the network and applying analytics tools, organizations can automate existing processes and arrive at valuable new insights. Many states and cities already use camera systems to automate processes such as speed-limit enforcement and toll collection, and analysts foresee a future in which cameras are able to use facial recognition and other intelligent features to make “decisions” on their own. For instance, public street cameras might one day automatically dispatch first responders after an automobile accident.
Real-time location tracking: Tools such as radio frequency ID tags and mobile beacons can track people and assets. These solutions are often used in the retail sector, as well as settings where inventory management is a critical concern. In retail, the simple act of keeping the right products in the right place on the shelf so they’re available for customers to purchase can prove deceptively difficult. And when retailers make mistakes in this area, it often costs them sales and has a negative impact on the overall customer experience. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, 41 percent of shoppers want stores to provide interactive shelves to give product information, and 36 percent are interested in in-store tablets that show a larger offering of products to purchase.
Worker safety: According to the International Labor Organization, workplace accidents account for 320,000 deaths each year, with non-fatal accidents numbering more than 300 million annually. IoT-connected wearable devices, including helmets and wristbands, can help prevent these incidents by collecting biometric, environmental and geo-location data and sending real-time alerts to employees and managers if workers’ well-being is compromised. For example, wearables can help ensure workers aren’t exposed to excessive levels of heat, cold, radiation, noise or toxic gases.
How Digital Transformation Powers Corporate Success
Businesses in a variety of industries are implementing digital transformation initiatives to achieve a diverse set of objectives. By making better use of data and digital assets, via Internet of Things systems, businesses can boost efficiency, improve safety and enhance productivity.
For example, food manufacturer SugarCreek outfits employees with RFID-tagged bump caps, generating workflow productivity data and ensuring workers can be located during an emergency. The company also uses a network of 260 video cameras to allow remote employees and partners to watch operations and assist with maintenance from offsite locations.
Combining IoT Systems for Greater Effect
While each of these use cases is valuable on its own, the real power of IoT and digital transformation comes when organizations are able to combine several different IoT systems. For instance, public safety departments on college campuses might pull data from a number of IoT-connected sources — including security cameras, smart lighting systems, incident reports and perhaps even Wi-Fi access points — to deliver officers real-time information about changing conditions via a custom mobile app. Retailers might use mobile beacons not only to ping customers with special offers, but also to create foot-traffic heat maps and optimize store layouts. And cities and states might use connected traffic signals not just to streamline the flow of traffic, but also to inform infrastructure improvements and changes to the deployment of public safety workers.
Likely, many of the IoT use cases that will have the largest impact on the business world haven’t been dreamed up yet. Organizations that start pursuing their digital transformation strategies now will have an advantage over their competitors.