Operations Technology Takes Lead Over Information Technology in IoT

Internet of ThingsInformation Technology departments are playing second fiddle to Operations Technology as enterprises tune up for the Internet of Things (IoT).”

Browsing through my news sources, I discovered this provocative lede. It was something that begged for a deeper dive. Especially given the continuing conversations about the IT/OT divide. Then there is the question about the source of innovation in a company. Is IT innovative? Or is OT?

The article was in Computer World. Although a little shallow, the writer nailed it for a generalist writer who doesn’t really get manufacturing. “IoT straddles IT and operational technology, two disciplines that for decades have lived side by side without much interaction. Operations people handle things like lights, locks and machine tools, while IT folks buy the computers and run them.

Now it turns out that very small computers, such as networked sensors, can help a company’s infrastructure work better. But more often than not, IT is not in charge of those systems, the Technalysis survey showed.”

The survey, The Promise and Perils of Change: Enterprise IOT Survey Report, was by Bob O’Donnell, President and Chief Analyst, TECHnalysis Research, LLC. The online survey was conducted in March 2016 of
620 US-based individuals working for companies who are involved with Internet of Things applications for their companies.

50% (310) came from medium-sized companies (100-999 employees) and 50% (310) came from large companies (1,000+ employees). Industries represented included Tech, Retail, Manufacturing,
Education, Health Care and Transportation.

I’m not sure I 100% accept his definition, but it’s a good one—“IOT is defined as a network of non-traditional computing devices that are used to collect data on equipment, people or processes in an organization. Most systems consist of simple endpoints outfitted with a set of sensors that are connected together on a network and deliver data to a central point for additional analysis. Examples of IOT solutions range everywhere from smart lighting systems to vehicle tracking devices to factory production monitoring and beyond.”

Key Findings

  • IOT usage is reasonably widespread, but still most popular with tech-related companies
  • IT is heavily involved in IOT, but operations is the group most typically responsible for IOT
    projects
  • Two-thirds of all IOT projects will be managed outside of IT

Top IOT applications are:

  • Employee monitoring
  • Security and identification
  • Energy savings

Most organizations are more focused on improving processes than saving money. This is an interesting finding. Improving processes must have financial metrics, too, but the results are usually longer lasting than a simple cost saving.

Of those who do expect to save money, top savings areas are:

  • More efficient operations
  • Monthly utilities
  • Saving employee time
  • Reduced downtime
  • Business cost of goods/supplies

When managers were projecting purchases, they looked first at edge devices or endpoints. Then they looked at networks—you’ve got to be able to connect the devices or you really won’t have Internet of Things, right?

One last thing had to do with type of networking. The origins of IoT lay with M2M, which was architected with cellular wireless communication. Three-quarters of all IoT connectivity reported was composed of WiFi and Ethernet. I’m not shocked.

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