By Neil Herbert Discovering the link between the insurance industry and IoT and understanding how sensors can improve crop yields for African farmers With analysts estimating that up to 80 billion devices and sensors will be in the market by 2020, the need for real-time processing and analytics has escalated as companies work to realise the up to $8.9 trillion (Sh908 trillion) in additional revenue predicted to be unlocked by IoT. This is also leading to the development of more than 200,000 new apps and services as companies aim to take advantage of the potential benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by exploring new business models, optimisations, and revenue streams. However, business leaders are quickly learning that IoT is simply a tool, not a silver bullet: to extract the optimum value from IoT projects, business leaders still need clarity on its role in driving digital transformation – and bottom-line results. While some businesses are running multiple IoT implementations across various lines of business but still struggle to realise true commercial benefits, industries such as insurance, retail, supply chain, and agriculture are experiencing exponential benefits as their IoT initiatives deliver transformative business value. In the supply chain, for example, companies are using IoT for intelligent supply chain execution, logistics, and supply chain planning for near-real-time replenishment, smart warehousing, intelligent transportation optimisation, and real-time track and trace. In a range of other industries, recent use cases are inspiring confidence in the business value of IoT to reduce risk and optimise processes. IoT delivering business value across industries The insurance industry is one of the first to deploy large-scale IoT implementations to drive innovation and improve the customer experience. As sensors become more commonplace in the home, at work, and society, insurers will have exponentially growing pools of structured and unstructured data that could provide the foundation of better customer insights, more accurate situational awareness, and improved business processes. Those that prioritise digital transformation have already shown how the combination of data sets from IoT, their own systems, social media, partners, and suppliers can drive innovation and unlock new business models, greater efficiency, and increased competitiveness. In another example, a company managing large sports stadiums in Germany uses data sets from weather, traffic systems, supply chain, social media, sensors embedded in turnstiles, and retail outlets to monitor operational needs in real time during large events. If, for example, a specific player is performing extraordinarily well on field, their system could inform the retail outlet to increase its stock of jerseys sporting that player’s name, as there’s likely to be increased demand following the end of the match. Similarly, if weather patterns indicate unusually hot temperatures, the system could alert suppliers to dispatch additional stock of drinks and bottled water to meet heightened demand. Here in Africa, the farming industry – which by some accounts provides income for up to 60% of African citizens – is seeing how IoT and analytics can improve livelihoods by making small but important improvements to farming processes. Farming in Africa mostly involves small-scale farmers, where in developed countries large corporations do farming at a grand scale. In a recent rural agricultural project involving an IoT solution, sugar cane farmers gained valuable insights from sensors guiding the optimal harvest and processing times. Sugar cane farmers have a limited window of opportunity to process cut sugar cane; up to 50% of the yield can be degraded if it is not taken for processing within 48 hours of harvest. By using IoT sensors combined with a cloud-based analytics platform that incorporates external data sets such as weather data, African sugar cane farmers that were part of the project received timely information regarding the optimal harvest and processing timelines for their crops, helping them improve their yield and increase their revenue while minimising waste. Cloud platform enables innovation With the exponential growth of data, companies need to consider ways to leverage technology to reach and support employees, customers, partners, and suppliers across the world. Here, a cloud platform powered by an in-memory computing platform proves essential, as it not only connects disparate data sources and technologies, but also enables innovation at a grand scale. Globally, companies are leveraging the SAP Leonardo suite of innovation tools, including IoT, to unlock business value and transform their operations, business models, and revenue streams. The most successful implementations include a design-thinking element that brings together a broad mix of people within the business to help uncover areas of high-potential IoT innovation. By partnering with a global leader in IoT innovation that can provide a platform, intelligence, insight and support, companies are now able to realise the true transformative benefits of IoT and its associated commercial applications.
Writer is Director: Business Analytics at SAP Africa