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Agility needed for IoT to take off in companies: Hewlett Packard Enterprise
THE Internet of Things (IoT) - where devices are connected to the Internet and each other - is taking off, with market consultancy IHS forecasting that the global market will grow from an installed base of 15.4 billion devices in 2015 to 75.4 billion in 2025.
The Business Times speaks to Chan Kong Hoe, Hewlett Packard Enterprise general manager for solution sales in the Asia-Pacific, on how ready Singapore is for IoT and what companies here can do to start on the journey.
There has been much talk about IoT. How would you evaluate Singapore's progress on this compared to other countries?
Singapore is one of the most advanced nations when it comes to the two key aspects of IoT development in a country - technology and policy. According to market intelligence firm IDC, Singapore has been ranked among the top three nations in the region that are the most capable and ready to generate efficiencies linked to IoT solutions.
Some key technology factors where Singapore is well ahead are connectivity, broad penetration of mobile and broadband as well as cloud infrastructure. From a policy perspective, Singapore ranks very high on ease of doing business, has a vibrant start-up ecosystem for innovation, and foundational regulatory framework such as data privacy.
In particular, Singapore is focused on two key initiatives in IoT - Smart Nation and Smart Industry, also called Industry 4.0.
What's stopping Singapore companies from moving more quickly on this?
Skill shortage is one of the biggest barriers to faster adoption of IoT. IoT initiatives require a confluence of specialised skills - from industrial automation, IT knowledge in networking, analytics and insights into manufacturing or public governance, and finally integration skills.
IoT solutions require new technology architectures, new processes and new management procedures for which many companies don't have the skills yet. And these are hard to build overnight.
The second challenge about IoT is that adoption of these solutions requires an agile approach - for instance, minimal viable product to prove the business value and drive broader deployment and adoption. However, implementing these agile approaches in established companies can be hard and require cultural and organisational change.
Are there any particular sectors or industries that have moved faster on IoT in Singapore?
Two areas where Singapore has moved faster on IoT are Smart Nation and Industry 4.0. Singapore has moved fast in several Smart Nation applications - for instance, smart meters for real-time monitoring of power consumption, smart town solutions for better designing of new flats, autonomous vehicle test centre, smart parking with Parking.sg etc.
Similarly, with regards to Industry 4.0, Singapore is the fourth-largest exporter of high tech products, and many high tech manufacturers in Singapore are early adopters of IoT - including the aerospace and the oil industry especially with digital manufacturing solutions in robotics and smart factory software.
For companies that are still considering whether to invest in IoT, what are some of the easier early moves that they can take?
Our advice is to work along several time horizons simultaneously.
First: Create your vision, strategy, and roadmap, using methodologies like business model canvas, design thinking and others.
Second: Don't try to create the 100-per cent solution, but start quickly, create prototypes or minimal viable products, learn from experience and customer feedback - and continuously optimise your long-term roadmap based on that feedback and experience.
Third: Simultaneously execute your mid- and long-term roadmap - for instance, drive a broader IT transformation to create the backend you need to power large-scale IoT implementations.
And finally: explore and plan your long-term opportunities to adapt your strategy and roadmap. Embed emerging technologies into your planning. For example, what will memory-driven computing enable you to do what you did not yet foresee?
What other advice would you give to companies preparing their IT infrastructure for IoT?
It's important to understand that IoT solutions require hybrid IT infrastructures which enable companies to choose the location where they run their IoT applications - based on requirements like performance, speed, security, compliance, or cross-site collaboration.
For example, an oil and gas company might want to deploy a condition monitoring solution on an IT system which is running directly on an oil rig - that is, at the edge - in order to be able to analyse more and richer datasets to increase the accuracy and reliability of predictions.
Running the application close to the industrial equipment delivers the required speed, security and reliability - while transferring the sensor data to remote data centres or clouds costs too much time (latency), is too unsecure and unreliable, and there is simply not enough bandwidth to do that.
At the same time, however, that company has to transfer selected analysis results to its core data centre or the cloud to enable intelligent planning of on-site maintenance schedules across several oil rigs.
Hybrid IT platforms enable that choice, but also enable the consistency of applications and data across locations.
This means, IoT solutions have to be hybrid, that is, they have to integrate from edge to core to cloud.