Hugh Owen, senior vice president at MicroStrategy, discusses the business benefits of delivering an effective Enterprise IoT strategy

The Internet of Things (IoT) has gained popularity as a cool concept pertaining to smart devices that expedite or automate daily life – from brewing coffee, to turning off the lights, to breathing mindfully. Amazon’s Echo Alexa has become the ultimate personal assistant to ease the burden of everyday stresses, by carrying out a range of tasks through a simple by voice command. Could this intelligence be carried into the office and the success replicated here? Could smart devices be taught to carry out tasks in a business environment, thereby freeing up time to concentrate on critical decisions?

Press attention continues to focus on the consumer IoT sector, but McKinsey estimates that 70% of the value that will be created by the IoT over the next decade will flow from B2B applications. In other words, it is the Enterprise IoT (EIoT) sector that is expected to have the largest economic impact on our society in the future.

Most of the infrastructure necessary to EIoT is already available, but the market is still calling for a solution that can connect all the dots and enable demonstrable improvements in business operations.  These ‘dots’ comprise of different aspects of an organisation, but employees within the business must also be included. It is imperative that IoT extends to people as a business asset.

Creating digital twins

Most EIoT vendors largely deal with connecting devices or machines such as refrigeration units, automobiles, or assembly lines. By adding sensors and connectivity to these devices, they create ‘digital twins’, or virtual representations of a physical object – complete with key attributes and metrics about the physical object – for the sake of monitoring and managing these objects.

However, in addition to objects and machines, people ought to number among the vital assets of any organisation, using technology to create the digital ‘twins’ of employees, partners, and customers. That is, a virtual representation of a person in the enterprise context, with the insight and information associated with their existence within the business.

Creating a digital twin enables personalised and contextualised experiences as well as providing telemetry and insight about actions. By assigning these badges via smartphones to employees, companies will be able to easily compile information about which buildings an employee visits, how frequently a team delivers inventory to a specific retail store, or which contractors are currently on site. Utilising this real time data, business leaders will be able to remain agile and responsive when making informed decisions.

Internal infrastructure must be secured, as more devices and more endpoints can mean an expanded attack surface

These interactions between the employee and the device facilitate business process improvement in terms of decreasing authentication-related friction and lost productivity. At the same time, each digital twin can, much like the digital twin of a physical object, stream instrumentation data about the person’s context and actions in real-time. Businesses are empowered to not only deliver a modern, connected workplace to the end user, but additionally to generate useful data for near-real-time analysis.

Office AI

The use of IoT in an enterprise setting will also transform the way employees interact with each other. Rather than relying on meetings and status calls, boardroom-like updates will be delivered to executives without having to move from their desks. They’ll be able to compile, synthesise, and share information in a matter of minutes, eliminating the need for the meetings where these tasks typically take place.

Technological personal assistants will eliminate the need for meetings with co-workers and customers, streamlining operations to deliver data efficiently. Allowing the use of such devices, linked to AI within an office environment will remodel how the corporate world operates.

To ensure the long-term success of a digitally transformative EIoT vision, the internal infrastructure must be secured, as more devices and more endpoints can mean an expanded attack surface. This means that attention must be devoted to safeguard connected systems and make sure they are only accessible via authorised devices and authorised people. In addition, this internal environment must be continuously monitored to detect anomalous behaviour, which could indicate malicious activity.

The potential of Enterprise IoT will be realised when businesses can clearly see the associated benefits. A connected infrastructure that is constantly updated with good quality data will ease bottlenecks and streamline processes, as well as improve workflow. Executives will be able to have a more informed and intelligent bird’s eye view, not only of the physical business, but all the extended assets through any device connected to the environment.