Successfully Managing IoT

Enterprises have begun to realize the potential of IoT, and many are involved in discussions around the application development process. But the most important part of Internet of Things (IoT) is its ongoing management once it is up and running. There needs to be a strategic approach to the management, such as the implementation of a command center. Such a command center would be responsible for managing thousands of endpoints, most of which are new to IT, can be embedded in other systems, and are going over wired and wireless networks like ZigBee and Thread, as well as Wi-Fi.

This command center management approach is the idea of John Cognata, a senior business development executive at SOFTEL Communications, who I spoke with at the recent International Avaya User Group (IAUG) conference. SOFTEL Communications is a unified communications and contact center services /solution provider of integrations, software development, and managed services for omnichannel communications across multiple industry sectors.

John offered to answer my questions relating to IoT, M2M, and wearable devices:

IoT is a common "catch-all" term used to define the many devices that may be readily connected to IT resources, utilizing Internet Protocols (IP).

IoE (Internet of Everything) expands that term, to include the development of connectivity for devices which need peripheral equipment, processing or additional components, to achieve the same level of connectivity.

M2M (Machine to Machine) is the automation of actions within a data stream between connected devices. The action criteria are pre-defined and thresholds set. Then as interactions take place between devices, the end device is continually monitored. If a set of thresholds is breached, a series of actions may be invoked without "human" intervention.

Wearable technologies are the devices specifically designed and developed to provide an individual with information or services about his or her health (through monitoring), location (through GPS), and environment (through location). There are a whole host of new and exciting methods and processes aimed at monitoring and informing the wearer of such devices.

The most obvious common ground for each of these devices is that they can be "hooked up," or developed to connect to the existing infrastructure provided by Internet Protocols (IP), data streams, and IT processes.

Without getting into too much detail, a typical life cycle of delivery contains elements which would:

This would really depend on the type of devices in question. Generally, the first step to delivering a solution is to identify what can be achieved, using existing or commercial methods. A device may already have the means to connect through a legacy system or through the application of middleware (IBM's MQ Series is a good example). Other older equipment may not have the ability to connect at all -- and that means creating methods to provide that connectivity. The base criteria depends on the operations of the equipment and how it may be monitored or affected by the implementation of an IoT process.

The development process can contain quite a number of individual phases depending on the equipment in question. Planning needs to include:

  • Device interfacing (DI)
  • Data security
  • Transfer protocols
  • Data polling
  • Middleware development
  • Data warehousing
  • (Potentially) Big data analytics (BDA)

This is aside from the operational aspects of what to do with the IoT information once it is presented!

The tools for implementation are wholly dependent on the equipment or device in question. There are a lot of alternatives out there. IoT as a process is the common ground here. Once a device is successfully integrated to a common interface, the technique of implementation becomes standardized.

The basic approach for operating with IoT-connected elements is in the definition of what the connection is set to achieve. Whether the data being gathered is for monitoring, or it is actionable, or perhaps interactive, or maybe even M2M; regardless, the operation of IoT is really no different from any other IT communications device connectivity.

The implementation of an IoT stream is very much like the introduction of a new omnichannel. If you think of voice, multimedia, Web, and social media as other channels that need associated resources, skills, actions, content and knowledge management, then the operations for IoT present no more complexity than would the implementation of any other new channel of communications.

The question here is really about development and scale: Are we talking about 10 devices, or 12 million? As long as the development of the processes for the device is robust and the connectivity and monitoring remain intact, then support will be constrained to interrogating the data stream and the operations derived from it. If the device or connectivity is not robust, then support will be required to cater to that. Consider that a wearable tech app has a level of support, as does the infrastructure required to operate an IT environment. It is about the type of issues that may surface in both of those supporting resources.

SOFTEL firmly believes that IoT sits comfortably within the same type of framework as the operations within a contact center environment. The processes already exist within this type of enterprise to cater to the relatively complex IT infrastructure, the channels of interaction, and the resources underpinning business operations. In a hybrid environment, third parties are best positioned to maintain the connected devices and services, service integrators or internal IT is able to manage IoT/IT operations and infrastructure, and internal business operations are able to manage any resourcing requirements.