By Ingo Hofacker, responsible for the Internet of Things business at Deutsche Telekom.
What's the best antidote to those notorious afternoon lows? A nice cup of coffee – and a delicious sweet baked treat. In Germany, we go for "Kuchen," or cake. If you would like to bake a cake, but aren't really into baking them from scratch, you can use one of the great cake mixes that are available these days. That will give you a tasty result, with little effort. What more could one want?
It's easy to ensure that the final result includes your own special preferences, because you can "pimp" mixes to your liking by adding all kinds of ingredients, such as raisins or chocolate flakes, or applying a custom fruit glaze. So a cake mix is sort of a modular system that can be personalized and customized with just about any and all ingredients one could want. I mention this because it provides a nice image for the kind of modular system that many companies wish they could have for the Internet of Things (IoT). Companies find themselves just wishing – and not getting – because many manufacturers only offer individual ingredients. It's often impractical, in terms of the required time and know-how investments, to try to produce a consistent, functioning system from such ingredients.
Baking delicious cakes
A survey conducted by the market research company IDC in January of this year found that a not inconsiderable fraction of all German companies are having difficulties in getting IoT projects up and running. The problems come in selecting the right technologies and providers. Such selection is often dauntingly complex, and a full 26 percent of responding companies mentioned it as one of the top three obstacles. IDC has thus been advising providers to simplify their offerings and to offer complete IoT solutions.
Our aim is to offer IoT solutions that are about as easy to use as a cake mix. Solutions that are guaranteed to work and that companies can customize to their own needs. So our customers won't have to "bake from scratch." So they won't have to hunt around for all those ingredients – or grind their flour, milk a cow or raid the hen house. We put it all together first and – for those who would like a truly complete service – will even find the right baker to do the baking.
This kind of service can only grow more and more important, since the Internet of Things is rapidly changing, and no one working alone can keep up with it. That is why we have created and use an entire IoT ecosystem. In practical terms, this means we are the specialists for connectivity, cloud services and security. We integrate those key basic ingredients together with various, highly specialized components provided by our partners – and thereby produce the best-possible complete solutions for our customers.
Dream team in motion
What would be the most recent example of how this strategy is working? Our constantly growing partnership with SAP. We are aiming to monitor our supply chains worldwide, in real time. The basis for doing that consists of the "Bees" provided by our technology partner Roambee. The "Bees" are small devices that can be added to shipments and freight containers. Via the Internet of Things, they make it possible to monitor the locations and conditions of the goods they are accompanying. For example, they can detect shocks and log transport routes.
Companies can integrate data that we collect and manage – such as IoT or supply-chain data – directly within SAP applications and systems, such as within the digital core of SAP S/4HANA. This enables companies to both monitor their supply chains efficiently and stay connected with partners – other companies – in value-creation networks.
Recently, we were able to add another industry giant to this cooperation: Microsoft. The relevant SAP applications can now be operated on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform.
It's all there
Needless to say, our customers don't have to scavenge around for the individual components (hardware, software, connectivity, the Web portal, service). We offer ready-made "cake mixes": handy bundles that are easy to integrate and use. We offer a range of IoT bundles that are specially designed for various applications.
For example, we offer bundles for monitoring industrial machines. They are complete packages that enable users to keep track of all their machine data at all times. They help companies optimize their maintenance operations – and thereby enhance their machines' availability – and yet lower their maintenance costs. Optimized maintenance improves machines' outputs and increases their lifetimes.
We also offer IoT bundles for tracking goods. For example, Connected Goods, offered in cooperation with SAP, and Asset Tracking, offered with Software AG. In the past, companies often had no idea where their valuable mobile goods and machines were at any given time, or in what condition they were in. Those times are definitely over!
Only data you can use are good data
The point of these IoT bundles is of course not simply to collect data – such as data on valuable goods and machines – that you can look at. The point is to collect data that you can use, in truly useful ways. In cooperation with SAP, we are now helping our globally operating customers get a great deal more out of their data. We have been integrating data within special SAP applications such as SAP Vehicle Insights, SAP Global Track and Trace and SAP Connected Goods. With such applications, for example, car manufacturers, production operations, warehouses and suppliers can coordinate movements of freight and fleets, keep transparent records of the condition of their assets and optimize their supply chains, with their partners, all on the basis of live data. Such applications provide real efficiency gains – the kind of efficiency gains that IoT solutions are supposed to provide.