The internet of things (IoT) presents an opportunity for businesses in many different industries to unlock the full potential of their assets. Consisting of an ecosystem of devices capable of connecting and exchanging data with minimal intervention, IoT can uncover important insights of an organisation’s operations that would never have previously been available, allowing them to discover new ways to optimise operations across their entire supply chain.
“In today’s business environment, it’s extremely important to understand your end-to-end operations,” says Bernd Gross, chief technology officer at Software AG, and CEO of its subsidiary Cumulocity. “Instead of just looking at a single piece of equipment, process or factory, IoT allows us to understand the entire ecosystem. Are my manufacturing processes energy efficient? How are my products being used? Those insights are the new way to enhance productivity, which organisations can only acquire by shifting to a more holistic view of their operations, including operational technology.”
However, building this holistic view is far from a simple task. Organisations are faced with a complex implementation project that requires time and expertise, realities which can sometimes come into conflict with optimistic goals.
“Successful IoT projects have a realistic timeline and a realistic business case behind them,” says Gross. “The issue we see is when companies try to run before they can walk. IoT is a complex technology, and many companies underestimate how this complexity increases over time. You first need to learn about the technology through simple services like remote monitoring, and only then move on to more advanced applications like predictive maintenance. You need to enhance the sophistication of your services and not reach for the stars immediately.”
Gross also highlights the difficulty that businesses are having with achieving the scale that they are aiming for in their IoT projects.
“Showing return on investment is hugely important in these projects, but some businesses are failing in that because they can’t achieve the necessary scale,” he says. “A lot of clients have self-developed technologies that have great functional elements, but largely forget non-functional capabilities, such as high availability or true multitenancy. Both are needed to meet end customers’ expectations and should be embedded into the original software architecture. It is almost impossible to reengineer this afterwards. If you suddenly try and scale self-developed IoT solutions to tens or hundreds of thousands of assets, or higher data throughputs, you find small issues become a lot bigger, to the point that they can prevent you from achieving your business objectives.”
Implementing IoT technologies can therefore prove to be a daunting prospect, especially for those without software expertise. However, Cumulocity IoT can help ease the process for organisations with the combination of Cumulocity’s IoT platform and Microsoft Azure technologies.
“We provide our software platform capabilities,” says Gross. “If you’re a wind turbine manufacturer or an elevator company, it’s very hard to find the right software talent to implement IoT technologies. Software AG can deploy its software platform, together with Microsoft, in a way that allows our customers to start out with a ready product. They can use their resources to differentiate that product and deploy their specific solution ‘on top’ through open application programming interfaces.”
With Software AG’s support, organisations can significantly reduce the time to get IoT solutions to market.
“Let me take the example of a wind turbine,” says Gross. “This type of asset typically requires a multi-day manual onboarding to integrate it within the environment of the operating centre that will be managing it. With our technology, that goes down to half a day. That’s because you can have the scripts ready, downloaded, automated and deployed immediately, allowing you to introduce the turbine into your sophisticated back-end environment.”
Software AG has partnered with Microsoft to develop a joint IoT offering that delivers greater benefits for its customers, more quickly, and at a lower risk.
“Together with Microsoft, we’ve created a joint reference architecture for our customers,” says Gross. “That means that we can guide our customers on a joint IoT journey, using the best of Microsoft Azure’s cloud environment combined with the Cumulocity IoT platform capabilities, including the non-functional capabilities required to scale IoT projects. For example, Microsoft Power BI comes pre-integrated with Cumulocity IoT and can be used out of the box.”
As he looks towards the future, Gross hopes to expand the partnership between the two companies to deliver more significant benefits.
“This is just the starting point for our partnership,” he says. “We’re aiming to become a preferred partner on IoT capabilities and benefit Microsoft’s engineering efforts. With the enormous growth that Azure is experiencing, we hope to support Microsoft with our IoT-specific offerings as it continues to focus on its core capabilities.”
Read the Effective IoT solutions with Software AG and Microsoft white paper here
This article was originally published in the Summer 2023 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription