Systems of Things: The Building Blocks for the Next Internet Revolution

Posted by Anthony Reynolds on

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Someday, we will be healthier because our doctors will have access to all the data they need about our health. Someday, our vehicles, appliances, bridges and other asset will monitor themselves and will let us know when it is time to service them. Someday, our vending machines and stores will never run out of our favorite treat as they will make the call for replacement before inventory run out. Someday, we will never have to make a decision without the data we need to make smart decisions. That somebody is coming soon and it is bought to you by Internet of Things.

We all know there are more connected devices then people in the world today. By 2020, there will be 50 billion connected devices globally*. However, businesses and society will not benefit from connected devices if there are no systems in place to gather, analyze and gain insights from the massive volumes of data generated by these connected devices. In other words, for connected devices to become useful, we need Systems of Things.

We spent last half of 20th Century building, what Geoffrey Moore calls, Systems of Record – highly structured and largely stable transactional data that is the core of every business. These Systems of Record capture every dimension of our lives, be it financial transactions, human resources, order processing, inventory management, customer relationship management, supply chain management, product lifecycle management or more. These Systems of Record, much like the interstate highway network, have paved the way for enormous economic expansion over the last 50 years.

With the proliferation of the Internet, Enterprise IT saw a shift towards Systems of Engagement, encompassing the edge of the business, leveraging social networks, and processing loosely structured data that is constantly changing. This shift towards Systems of Engagement resulted in more agile business processes, seizing new business opportunities at the edge of the business. These systems depend on gathering and analyzing large volumes of data from disparate sources in real-time to generate actionable insights for fast decision-making. For instance, a clothing retailer can now offer highly personalized real-time discount offers to online shoppers after analyzing their shopping behavior, social media sentiment, likes and dislikes.**

Today, we are witnessing another massive revolution where enterprises will need to build the Systems of Things in parallel to Systems of Engagement to harness the Internet of Things. As the previously dumb devices on the edge become intelligent and get connected, Systems of Things will be needed to source, capture, analyze, predict and act on the data in real time.

Systems of Things must provide the following services:

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Secure Device and Data Management:

Just like PCs and mobile devices, the things that are connected to Internet need to be secured over the wire and at rest. This is job one for enterprise class Systems of Things.

Complex Event Processing:

Many Internet of Things use cases will need real time processing of events. The processing of these events can become complex very fast as one considers the variety of events relevant to large enterprises and the sophisticated business rules that must be used to analyze said events. Systems of Things need to provide complex event processing service that matches the ones used on Wall Street for processing financial events.

Big and Fast Database:

The volume and velocity of data generated within an IoT landscape involving hundreds or thousands of devices will be massive. Some IoT use cases will need big data tools to manage all incoming data from devices and all IoT use cases will need in-memory database to act in real time. Systems of Things need to provide both big database and fast database services to handle varied IoT use cases.

Real time and Predictive Analytics:

It’s not just about the volume and velocity of data generated by connected devices; the true value lies in the ability to analyze large volumes of data created by millions of sensors and devices in real time to generate actionable insights and respond within fraction of a second. The ability to analyze the data and make predictions like when a part will fail or whether there will be an inventory stock out, will be needed to optimize service runs, prevent down time and stock outs. This is another critical service that Systems of Things need to provide for IoT to be valuable to businesses.

Process Integration Tools:

Of course, no IoT project will happen in silo. The business goal of IoT projects is to bring new efficiencies and effectiveness to existing business processes or to create new business processes not previously possible. When Systems of Things identify an action that people need to take, they need to start a process in existing Systems of Records like ERP, CRM, etc. Systems of Things need to provide process integration tools to popular Systems of Records out of the box to reduce the overall cost of building IoT apps.

Application Development Framework:

No Systems of Things can provide for all IoT use cases out of the box. Enterprises will need application development frameworks to rapidly write applications for their various IoT projects. Systems of Things need to provide open and industry standard frameworks so that IT can leverage their existing developers for IoT projects.

Consider an example of Smart Vending that needs all the Systems of Things services. To convert the ‘dumb’ vending to smart vending, one needs to connect the vending machine to the internet and secure & manage the machine and machine data so that it is not hacked. One needs to define the events that need real time action…for example, drop in temperature, stock out, breakage, etc. The data collected from all the vending machine needs to be stored in fast database for creating real time dashboards and running predictive analysis and big databases for getting insight from the historical data. For example, one of the predicative analysis algorithm needed will be to prevent inventory stock out based on analysis past sales in the region, current weather in the region and any special events in the region. With all the data from vending machine, the re-stocking process can be optimized to cut down on the visit to well-stocked vending machine and routing the stockiest to where they are needed by integrating with scheduling system using process integration services. Using application development framework, many different applications can be developed for different users…for example, overview dashboard for executives, predictive analysis dashboard for operation team, field service app for technicians and so on. See Smart Vending in action at the recent TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco.

Luckily, Systems of Things use the same foundational blocks as Systems of Engagement and Systems of Records: big data, fast data, predictive analytics, cloud, and mobile. SAP is only company that has all the enterprise class building blocks for System of Things. Fast and big data real-time analysis requirements are tackled by industry leading SAP HANA. SAP Predictive Analysis and SAP Sybase Event Stream Processor technologies analyze massive amounts of data in real-time. The SAP HANA Cloud Platform for IoT offers services to scale to your business needs and build beautiful applications that can be accessed from any devices, including mobile devices. SAP’s business process expertise is unmatched in the industry-SAP Business Suite run’s 60% of the world’s GDP.

We believe SAP is uniquely positioned to help you build the Systems of Things solutions for all your IoT projects on single platform that can scale to your business needs and easily connect to your Systems of Record.

You can learn more about SAP’s IoT solution here.

*More then 50 Billion Connected Devices,Erisson White Paper

**Systems of Engagement and The Future of Enterprise IT: A Sea Change in Enterprise IT, Geoffrey Moore, Managing Director, TCG Advisors

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