However it may be implemented, digital transformation is fundamentally about using data to make better decisions, increase efficiency and create extra value for customers. It has become possible because the digital technologies at our disposal today provide easier access to more data from more sources than ever before, not to mention the number-crunching analytical power of the cloud to help us understand and visualise what the data is saying.
Strangely enough, this easy access to data can create an actual barrier to achieving transformation. It can also be easy to become drawn into trying to achieve too much too quickly, to set over-ambitious goals making the project too complicated and impossible to deliver.
It’s best to start small and build scalability into the plan. At Advantech, we can speak from experience, having implemented digital transformation in our own business. As we started to expand our data collection throughout our operations – across manufacturing and into our supply chains, for example – and to centralise that data and use digital tools to analyse it, we were able to very quickly identify the causes of problems. It helped us visualise new ways to increase output and raise quality.
In the past, generating this kind of information would have required companies to acquire and manage client/server software solutions. IoT technologies now make everything easier and more cost-effective by connecting I/O devices to the cloud to take advantage of sophisticated software applications on a pay-per-use basis. These cloud applications can extract the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) needed to inform business decisions.
Setting the scope of the project to ensure achievability is only a part of the solution, however. Progress can remain frozen simply due to the sheer diversity of skills required in terms of devices, connectivity, software, not to mention the skills to integrate them effectively. Digital transformation is not about any of these elements in isolation; it’s about combining them all to achieve greater insights.
Overcoming the diverse challenges associated with each part of an IoT solution and integrating them to work together demands a variety of competencies that are not typically contained within a single organisation.
Advantech has created an IIoT Platform as a Service called WISE-Paas, which is ready to deploy in the cloud and incorporates database services, multi-level data management and security services, support for training and deploying AI. It provides dashboard-style visualisation and offers multitenancy, portability and flexible expansion.
In addition, by working with selected partner companies – solution integrators that bring domain-focused expertise – we are developing what we call Solution Ready Packages (SRPs). These SRPs solve important software-development and system-integration challenges and hence alleviate much of the complexity and risk.
SRPs are ready to run on WISE-PaaS. They provide the functionality for IoT-based services such as factory energy management, industrial equipment monitoring, retail-AI, smart-city services such as electric vehicle charging, streetlight control, and intelligent water management, amongst many others. Currently over 30 SRPs are available off-the-shelf and we are scaling to add many more in the future.
By establishing this co-creation strategy, as we call it, Advantech has done the groundwork to identify and engage with partners that end-user organisations would otherwise need to find for themselves among the variety of companies calling themselves “IoT solution integrators”. There is no practical limit to the number of SRPs that we can admit to the program.
By Jash Bansidhar, Managing Director at Advantech Europe