The window for Canadian businesses to gain a competitive edge by adopting the Internet of Things (IoT) is closing quickly.
Competitors around the world are jumping on the opportunity to use low-cost sensors to obtain real-time data to support decision-making, according to research by IDC Canada. “There has never been an easier time to use the Internet of Things to transform,” Nigel Wallis, IDC Canada vice-president of vertical markets and IoT, told participants in an IT World Canada webinar.
The good news is that over half of medium to large sized businesses in Canada have implemented some form of IoT, said Wallis. That’s on track with many Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, but slightly behind the U.S. He also noted that certain sectors, like financial services, are lagging behind.
The reasons to invest in IoT
It comes as no surprise that Canadian businesses say their top reason to adopt IoT is to reduce costs, said Wallis. As an example, he described how Canadian municipalities are using sensors to locate the source of water main leaks.About 20 per cent of treated water is lost due to pinhole leaks, but with sensors, cities can save time and money to fix them.
The potential to improve customer service and process efficiency were also cited as key reasons to invest in IoT. Wallis outlined how an elevator company has improved uptime by wiring all elevator components to the Internet. This allows the company to provide “predictive maintenance,” he said. Andrew Pruett, director of business transformation with Interfor Corp., added that he expects that predictive analytics will be the next step in evolution for many companies.
Security concerns may still pose an obstacle for some, as demonstrated by the recent distributed denial of service attack on devices connected to the Internet. However, Wallis noted that “everything we do with technology has security and privacy considerations. The thing isn’t to avoid doing it, but to do a better job of planning for security up front.”
It’s about problem-solving
For a successful business transformation, Pruett explained that the most important thing for businesses is to figure out what problems they’re trying to solve. It’s critical to get intimate with the problems of front-line workers, he said. To do this, he said he spends his time going into the field as well as meeting with operations, sales and marketing to fully understand their challenges.
When Pruett joined Interfor, the company had identified that it was taking too long to fill positions for skilled trades. “But we needed to find out why,” said Pruett. “We found that people want mobile first. No one wants a piece of paper with instructions or to search a manual. They want it on their device instantly.” Early signs are that mobilizing the workforce is making a “huge” difference.
Companies should also look at what others are doing, and try small experiments to address legitimate business issues, said Pruett. “We get caught up in trying to solve everything and spending way too much time in the analysis phase, without actually looking at what’s already been done. You can be a fast follower and still achieve business results”, he said.
Both Pruett and Wallis stressed the need for the IT department and the business owners to work closely together. “Collaboration is the first hallmark of any good digital transformation”, said Pruett.