From the desk of Region Americas CIO, Richard Ebach
I’m going to start a discussion on IOT by describing my house and my uncontrolled passion of gadgets. Hopefully this will become relevant as I get to the importance of IOT in the Supply Chain. What I will try to impart by the end of the discussion is the need to layer technologies for the big benefits and IOT is only one small part of a bigger strategy.
When I think to the early start of IOT in my house it would have started with the home security system where we put in simple sensors on doors and windows and the system would make a call out to a monitoring company to alert authorities or support personnel if anything went wrong. This came with some small advantages on insurance discounts but in reality, just made us feel safer. We felt safe until we were broken into while on vacation, luckily a second IOT system kicked in to help where our security system failed. More on this in a bit.
After the security system there were some interesting startups that offered silos of technology for things like lights, door locks and video doorbells. Music systems launched and various control systems for these devices surfaced as “hubs” to try and give control over the integrations. As you can imagine all of the sudden I had eight silos of technology that didn’t really work great together and I had about five remotes and multiple hubs to control our AV and streaming services which was a major frustration point for the family. It got to the point that there was a different remote every few months to learn before it became obsolete and replaced.
Then entered the AI voice assistant that allowed us to interact with the IOT devices at a distance and not need to be controlled with direct physical interaction. This helped a lot from a UX (user experience) perspective to drive value and whole family adoption of this crazy mix of technology I had amassed.
Some highlights of when it did work great, I had a contractor come to the house where I answered the door with two-way video from another country, I unlocked the door and turned off the alarm then put everything back when they had left. I can now stream any song to my backyard with simple voice commands and not be tethered by Bluetooth or remotes. I can adjust lights and set scenes and have the systems interact automatically. The other big benefit is of course the break in; We had not installed sensors in the upstairs windows based on the recommendation from the security company when they were doing the install. While we were on vacation of course someone scaled up the back of the house and came through the window. The secondary system we had was smoke detectors separate from the alarm company that came equipped with lights when people walked underneath and could detect home/away status. Luckily these lights coming on had our would-be thief running to exit, how do I know this… the rug was bunched up like a cartoon from the escape and nothing was really taken. We have since added many more sensors to the doors and windows and with an investment property quickly and easily duplicated the environment giving us complete remote control.
Now for the relevance to supply chain, it is likely the start of the journey will be an investment without direct ROI, the value comes after from the data and the mixing of technologies. There are a lot of startups and new ideas that may create silos of functionality which you should avoid without a good integration strategy and that UX of how the technology interacts within your organization should be an early part of the program and the best part is that it should scale and repeat.
Stay tuned for an update as I evaluate BLE beacons and location-based sensors for even more personalized automation experiences in my house and hopefully our warehouses.