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On the Journey to Becoming and Intelligent Enterprise: Role that IoT Plays
By John Candish, Head of IoT Products, SAP Digital Interconnect
For the intelligent enterprise to make good decisions good data is needed. This data must come from the supply chain, operations, the manufacturing centre, distribution and logistics and products in operation. Much of it will originate from IoT devices in these locations. Good data from these devices is made possible by great connectivity, which is foundational to any intelligent enterprise.
How should enterprises achieve great connectivity? The challenge they face is far more than connecting various offices and manufacturing sites. Rather thousands and often millions of individual end devices must be connected, from delivery vehicles, to individual manufacturing machines right through the end products in operation. These must be all connected in a secure and scalable manner. It’s easy to see how connecting such a high number of disparate devices can become a complexity in itself and hinder the intelligent enterprise if not done properly.
Firstly, consider what connectivity technologies are required, mobile 2/3G and 4G provide the most extensive global coverage, but this comes at the expense of cost (both the device and connectivity) as well as battery life.
Great connectivity is foundational to any intelligent enterprise
NB-IoT and LTE-M address these points to some extent but are yet to have anywhere near global coverage. WiFi may have a role to play particularly within an enterprise’s own campus, but battery life remains as issue. Low Power Wide Area technologies such as LoRa provide a much lower cost and lower power solution, all be it at much lower data rates. LoRa can achieve a battery life measure in years and has the advantage of operating in unlicensed spectrum, so it is easily possible to set up a private network within a campus or manufacturing site.
Considering the range of often mobile devices the intelligent enterprise must connect often multiple connectivity technologies will be required. By taking a consistent approach with connectivity and device management across all the connectivity types needed, enterprises can ensure both security and scalability of this solutions. They can do this by using neutral solutions that enable multiple connectivity over different technologies (such as 4G and LoRa) by means of a single platform and API, with consistent policies and management of device onboarding. Such solutions use cloud technology to provide a truly elastic infrastructure able to meet demand changes in real time.
Enterprises are also using neutral providers to manage connectivity across multiple mobile networks. Such providers use a neutral SIM card not tied to any particular network. This allows enterprises to use the same SIM card in all devices regardless of the ultimate location of use, avoiding the necessity for multiple stock keeping units depending on the destination of the device. The required network subscription(s) can then be downloaded and updated remotely as required, without the need to change the SIM card in the device. Such technologies can work with both virtual ‘soft’ SIMs such as the eUICC and with the more familiar physical SIM cards. This approach ensures that over the life of an IoT device, which may be 10- or 15-years access to the best connectivity options is maintained. Such a solution also enables devices to be operated in countries which restrict the ‘permanent roaming’ of IoT devices. In this case if a device is found to be roaming in a country with a permanent roaming restriction a local subscription can be downloaded to the device, ensuring compliance with the local regulations.
By considering at the outset all the connectivity types that will be needed and ensuring these can be managed in a unified way IoT devices can be successfully connected as the number of devices scales up.
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