IoT: The Integration of Operational Technologies

1IN. Enterprise Things iDrawFor the past several months I have been engaging with Enterprise IT executives talking about the “Internet of Things”. In many cases the eye rolls start before I’m through the first sentence. As the conversation continues they “get it” but still see IoT as more hype than substance and it is not currently on their radar screen. Their primary challenges include things like managing smart mobile devices, cloud computing, and converged networks. “Yes”, I say, “That’s IoT”, but I can tell they are still thinking about Fitbits and iPhones and even perhaps recalling the RFID pilot project they were considering a few years ago. Hmmm!

While I love driving and I am a huge music fan, most times during long drives the inside of my car is silent…this is thinking time. Reflecting on those conversations I understand completely. Analyst blogs, trade journals, and tech news websites are filled with stories about IoT (good and bad), many of which ultimately point to the infamous Gartner Hype Cycle where IoT is featured prominently at the top of the peak of inflated expectations. As a long time industry veteran who has seen many a technology slide into the trough of disillusionment and ultimately perish in Mr. Moore’s Chasm, I get it. But this is different; many of the technologies and methodologies that now fall under the banner of IoT are not new and may even be older than the individuals who just rolled their eyes.

So I ponder. Driving along a relatively empty highway (a rarity on the east coast) it occurred to me that we need to re-think how to convey the IoT message in terms that apply directly to the near term challenges IT executives face on a daily basis. Because of the aforementioned hype “IoT” is a fairly well known acronym. The beauty of an acronym is that it can be co-opted to suit ones own purpose. As the miles passed the gray matter churned…not only was I on a journey but I was on a mission to save IoT from a painful slide through the trough of disillusionment.

And then I recalled a few awkward moments when I tried to explain to friends and family what I do for a living:

“The Internet of Things is based on the concept that everything is connected to a network which means now you can control things like lights, television, and air-conditioning with your smartphone. I help companies do that in office buildings and big factories except you don’t need a smart phone because…have you ever seen the Cisco commercial about the girl that loved the cat that drank the milk?”

In an enterprise environment the true value of IoT lies at the intersection of Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technologies (OT) where data from the physical world (e.g. machine data, sensors) can be analyzed and used to drive processes and improve operational efficiency. While quite broad, the term “Enterprise Integration” is fairly well understood in both IT and OT circles. So while driving along in the general vicinity of the posted speed limit it hit me:

IoT = Integration of Operational Technologies

OT may appear to be a new concept but for this of us that have been around for a while we know that this is where things actually get done. OT includes things like machine-to-machine communications on a factory floor, building management systems, energy and lighting, safety and security, and fleet management systems. Smart mobile devices are increasingly moving into the OT world on factory floors and in the field in the energy and communications industries. Wireless connectivity is virtually ubiquitous and “Systems” are now more distributed that ever before where application components could be running on smart mobile devices in hybrid cloud environments across multiple converged networks.

Does any of this sound familiar? These are exactly the type of things the eye rollers where saying were their top priorities! And now we can clearly articulate…

“Yes, this is Enterprise IoT; The Enterprise Integration of Operational Technologies!”

Not a bad drive.