Throughout history, mankind has used technology to drive fundamental social change. Today, we are increasingly seeing the impact of the use of multiple technologies in our daily lives creating a new era of hybrid digital opportunities. The convergence of Operational Technology (OT), such as industrial automation and control systems, and Information Technology (IT), compute or networking systems, will be a key accelerant to drive a broad array of new value solutions.

With the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), edge devices have become intelligent and capable of interacting with the world around them. It will be increasingly common to find analog technologies in factories, stores, or other physical spaces; communicating with digital technologies via the internet and cloud. In the past, OT and IT used to be separate data silos, but there is a big push to leverage their integration and convergence.

The integration between the physical and virtual world not only impacts people’s lives, but has also fundamentally changed business by drastically improving the efficiency, decision-making capabilities, and supply chain integration of companies, as well as paving the way for new business models. 

According to IDC, global OT services has been growing at a CAGR of 9 per cent between 2019 and 2024, and it is expected to reach $115 billion USD by 2024. IT and OT convergence should be considered as a strategy for any systems integrator participating in the market today.

The value of hybrid technologies

The benefits of IT and OT convergence allow businesses to bridge the gap between a company’s operations and the consumer. This means that business operations become more flexible, collaborative, and responsive to change, significantly reducing time to market, improving process reliability, and reducing cost for the company. It also improves the quality and value of new products and services to the market.

By streamlining internal operations, consolidated data from suppliers and customers will result in faster and more reliable decision-making. Ultimately, your customers will be able to make better and faster decisions based on real-time data, resulting in increased revenue, reduced costs, and higher customer satisfaction.

If we take video surveillance as an example, by adding Artificial Intelligence (AI) to existing cameras to detect anomalies within a defined area of view – such as foreign objects, unusual movements, or even the sound of a gunshot – the system can automatically trigger a monitor alarm. In other words, rather than rely solely on the vigilance of a human monitor, the system itself can generate a real-time response. 

Another example of AI innovation is the security, access, and energy management within a building. The air conditioning, lighting and building resources can be managed by a centralized IoT system. By establishing threshold capacities in open areas and rooms, the building monitor can ensure health and safety guidelines are enforced. Lighting in a parking lot can be shut-off dynamically during low usage based on pre-defined traffic profiles and usage models.  

If we apply the capabilities of AI to volumetrics and logistics, a waste management company can deploy sensors in garbage bins which generate an alert when they are almost full. With AI, routes can be based on both real-time sensor data and predictive analysis to optimize pick-up schedules, maximizing the time and even the depreciation of vehicles, ultimately lowering costs and increasing efficiency.

How to leverage the convergence between operational technology and information technology:

  • Decide on the focus area: Many companies can leverage the benefits of IT and OT, so it is important to decide which components of the value chain to focus on.
  • Harness the power of use cases: Build your own value proposition on the key use cases and communicate them to customers appropriately. Keep in mind that these are enablers in the new normal.
  • Strengthen business competencies: Make short- and long-term plans to become a strategic partner capable of supporting emerging digital operations across industries. 
  • Don’t forget security: Implement policies and tools to decrease vulnerability risks in organizations. Ensure security standards for customers and that you can quickly address any threats.

The development and deployment of integrated IoT solutions represents a unique opportunity for the Solution Provider community. By solving real business problems, you create real-value and stickiness with the end-customer, generating more services revenue for you and your organization.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
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Lucas Martinez
Lucas Martinez is Channel Sales Director & IoT Lead for Latin America and Canada at Intel. In his role as IoT Lead, he is responsible for developing the company’s IoT strategy in the region and helping clients grow their business through digital transformation with a focus on visual solutions, AI, industrial and smart cities. Additionally, as Channel Sales Director for the Americas region, Lucas oversees Intel’s channel business including the various programs for BVARs, ISVs and distributors.