“We wish (the IoT) was only a tech issue,” Fait says. “To make a smart IoT ecosystem, so the user has a positive experience and you have a good flow of features and data, a lot of things have to come together - the designers, the hardware people, software, manufacturing. What we see in a lot of companies is strict divisions between the departments, with hierarchies and politics, when what you need is a cross-functional collaboration journey.”
The automation that IoT enables also isn’t always well received - especially among those responsible for manual processes and oversight that automation may alter or phase out, whether due to simple risk aversion or fears of obsolescence. This can be addressed by taking steps to adopt technology in a transparent and sensitive way.
“Something we’ve seen throughout the projects we’ve been working on, is that because there are often manufacturing timelines where everything has checkpoints and legal restrictions, or requirements that mean someone has to sign off on something at certain points of time, a high degree of automation is something they really hesitate to introduce,” says Grewenig.
Another issue is that because the IoT links devices, it’s mistakenly identified as being mainly about the hardware. Yet to leverage it successfully, “you have to become a software company, learn and understand what good software looks like and what the capabilities are,” says Fait. “The software is what adds the functionality and produces the actual benefit, not the sensor or device itself.”
Because software development is a key success factor, businesses should also be mindful of the limitations placed on the IoT by varying standards and protocols, and how these can sometimes prevent software from achieving the desired goals.
“In many use cases the hindrances are the boundaries between companies and different manufacturers and brands,” Fait says. “Take the smart meter example - you have the manufacturer, the electricity company, the owners or manufacturers of the household devices, and all those things have to come together and talk to each other. When the hype around IoT started everybody was talking about common standards so we could make really good ecosystems out of anything, but we haven’t seen that actually take off.”