Over the weekend, I read an interesting CompTIA article based on a survey of 500 businesses regarding planning for modern IT architectures. Much of the content didn’t surprise me: IT planning has been and will continue to be a challenge based on business needs, budget cycles and more. I dealt with those same challenges for 15 years at Fortune 100 companies during my stint in IT.
Towards the end of the article, however, was a bit of a surprise: According to the survey data, CompTIA found that internet of things (IoT) activities have decreased in 2017 from the prior year.
Wait a second. Isn’t enterprise IoT the next big thing?
I’m sure the reasons for these results are partly due to the same IT challenges any technical project faces. They may even be exacerbated by rapidly changing standards and technologies used by IoT devices. Think radios, protocols, security approaches, etc… But the blame for any decreased IoT activities in business can’t solely be on IT’s shoulders. I suspect the business side of the house — which generally drives IT needs — haven’t fully caught up with this rapidly changing world where everything is connected. By that, I mean business units don’t yet understand the benefits that the internet of things can offer. It comes as no surprise though when companies decide to take it upon themselves and use services that professional it consulting companies have to offer a business. As we all know that technology is always evolving, we might as well use it to our advantage and help grow your business effectively.
Creating “smart objects” in the enterprise
Take a simple example: The lowly conference or phone room. These rooms take up valuable space in office buildings, are generally used often (especially when employees are in open space environments), and aren’t something you’d think to instrument. By “instrument”, I mean to enable with some type of smarts or monitoring. It’s a term we used when I was adding smart software agents to servers and routers in the early 2000’s for proactive performance monitoring and alerts. Thankfully, these days you can find the best business routers and servers a lot easier.
Back in the day, conference rooms were open on a “first come, first serve” method. Hardly an optimal situation unless you wasted pre-meeting time by seeking a room out 10 or 15 minutes in advance and then squatting the real estate.
Administrative admins then were put in charge of room availability, which was a step forward, but all that really did was add a human gatekeeper that likely had more important things to do. Eventually, some companies wised up and enabled the ability to book a conference room through the company’s email calendar service: Another move forward but that pushes the room gatekeeping from a centralized manual method to a distributed manual one.
The shift from manual to efficient automatic resourcing
So what if you “instrument” the conference rooms and make them smarter?
Now, instead of employees wasting time searching for an available room the room monitors itself and intelligently provides availability in real time. It can even adjust availability without human intervention in case a booked room goes unused. Citrix, for example, offers this as a beta product to customers today and in its own offices.
Monitoring rooms with IR sensors to see if someone is actually inside isn’t that difficult to do. The system could also view IP traffic on the phone or videoconference equipment to see if the room is really in use. And by tracking previous room requests or pairing up the room’s instant availability with employee calendars, this smart room could reach out to people with a text or other instant notification saying, “Hey, I noticed you wanted to book room 123 at 10am today but it was booked; it’s 10:05 and the room’s not in use so it’s all yours now.” Heck, you could even use smart locks and RFID-enabled employee badges or phones with NFC chips to make sure the right people get their room at the right time.
This is a pretty simple example in a knowledge worker based environment. I chose this scenario, however because exemplifies the need for a new way of business thinking in this age of IT, compared to more obvious IoT opportunities found in manufacturing or other industrial verticals.
IT used to be about computers and computing, but as tech is embedded in more “things” IT needs to work with the business side so they understand how different smart objects in the workplace will improve employee efficiencies.
It’s time for business to start thinking outside the box when planning for future IT to include IoT efforts. While not always obvious, the benefits are fairly significant in terms of both cost reductions and productivity gains. Citrix says “We estimate we’re saving between $50 and $100 in previously lost worker productivity for every meeting” using technology similar to what I’ve outlined above.