Do companies really need to disrupt themselves in order to stay competitive? When and where should businesses begin with digital transformation?

All the promise and hype around digital technologies and the hyperconnected world elicits a range of emotional responses.

Optimism: Things will be so much smoother.
Fascination: Things will be so much cooler!
Hope: Things will keep getting better.
Anxiety: How will I be able to change things?
Skepticism: Will things really change that much?
Despair: Things are changing too much for me.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with both the good and the bad of all of this change. I’ve seen this happen again and again with businesses trying to wrap their heads around the Internet of Things, connected sensors, and automating data collection from the physical world.

Be Creative Without Being Destructive

…But I also encounter many people and companies taking a different approach. They have a can-do attitude and are able to focus on key opportunities rather than getting lost in the big picture.

One of the keys to this type of response and approach to digital transformation is finding strategic ways to implement new technologies with a light touch. Instead of ‘out with the old, in with the new’, these businesses layer new technology on top of existing products, processes, and facilities.

First, they find out what works. These organizations start with enhancing their current systems instead of wholesale transformation. Instead of heavy-handed disruption, they find ways to bring in new technology with while things stay up and running.

7 Best Practices for Bringing IoT into Your Business

This testing and assessing plan is by far the most successful approach that I see companies take, regardless of their industry. It’s also something that Kosmos, our system for building and running enterprise IoT applications, is well-suited for.

So here are my 7 best practices for bringing IoT and connected sensor technologies into your organization in a way that will help you achieve attainable goals without disrupting your entire organization.

1. Start with a Small But Real Problem

Don’t try to overdo it or over-engineer it. Just start with one simple thing even if it seems basic.

Trying to do too much in terms of functionality, automation, or data often means the application never gets built.

Example:

One of our customers in the food & beverage industry is working to digitize every step of their processes, from production to distribution to retail operations at their stores. 

Rather than take all this on in one go, they focused first on their production facilities. After considering connecting their ovens and power generators, they honed in on their industrial freezers. 

The reason was simple: one had recently malfunctioned, causing everyone at the facility to scramble and quickly transport all the product to another working freezer.

Besides being stressful, this triggered overtime costs and almost resulted in missed deliveries, endangering relationships and future revenue from long-time customers. 

This customer is now using temperature & humidity sensors configured with Kosmos to give them plenty of warning in case another freezer issue arises. 

How Kosmos Can Help You:

What problems you could solve with better historical data or with automatic alerts?

Once you have an idea, check out the sensors and hardware devices that are already integrated with Kosmos. You’ll likely find something that can help address your problem.

Additionally, Kosmos will enable you to set it all up in under an hour without any specialized software knowledge or needing to write any code. 

2. Focus on Saving Time or Money to Create Real Value at the Start

Great ideas for saving time and money right away are often activities that require maintenance technicians or others to check things physically.

Systems that can avert or prevent more serious waste or failures with early detection are also excellent ways to show the value of IoT systems.

Example:

Researchers at the National Institutes Of Health were spending hours every week gathering proximity sensor data from 60 mice cages. This data was being used to analyze the mice’s activity levels for research on obesity and diabetes. 

Mouse with food

Gathering all this data required a laborious series of tasks: individual SD cards were removed from each cage sensor, uploaded to a computer, and then combined together into a single dataset. 

Using Kosmos, the lab was able to automate all this data collection wirelessly, immediately freeing up hours of time and saving money on labor costs.

How Kosmos Can Help You:

Kosmos provides an end-to-end experience for IoT that combines the best aspects of Enterprise and consumer technology.

That means that you can use a single piece of software to configure industrial sensors and immediately get useful, easy-to-understand dashboards and data visualizations right in front of you.

Enabling your team to quickly view and understand the data you’re collecting and will help them see how it’s valuable.  

Dashboards and data in real-world units go live immediately once your Kosmos application is set up and connected to the internet.

3. Use Quick Wins To Help Build Confidence and Expertise

Complex, top-heavy projects can really sap momentum.

It’s important to remember the human element—there often isn’t a hard deadline for these types of projects since they’re not really baked into company processes yet. So momentum is particularly important.

Example:

A factory engineer kicked off his company’s digital transformation by upgrading a contaminant scanner on their production line in under a month from idea to execution.

This scanner is heavy, expensive piece of equipment that’s been in use for years with many more years of life remaining. But no one knew exactly how often its alarms went off, and when and why they did so.

So the engineer used Temboo to program a simple voltage sensor that he connected to the alarm light’s circuit. Whenever the alarm is triggered, it also activates an email alert to their quality assurance team and logs the time that it happened.

This quick win excited everyone involved in the project and paved the way for this system to be rolled out on other machines in other production lines.

It also gave the internal stakeholders at the company the confidence and expertise to introduce connected sensors into other areas of production, overcoming any previous skepticism or internal resistance.

How Kosmos Can Help You:

Kosmos can help get quick wins because it’s so quick to use.

Once you have your hardware and your idea, Kosmos enables you to set up a working, complete IoT system in under an hour.

See the straightforward five-step process for yourself:

4. Get Internal Backing Based on Having a Working System

Here comes the human element again.

Once you have an application successfully up and running and delivering value, tell your colleagues!

Technology isn’t going to implement itself—people have to believe in it. And for many, seeing is believing.

Example:

The same factory engineer in the previous example was diligent about showing his upgraded scanning machine to his colleagues and superiors.

They were impressed and quickly asked him to instruct other factory engineers at their other facilities on implementing the same systems on their production lines.

He was also given the freedom to explore other opportunities for upgrading their facilities with IoT. He took advantage of it for the benefit of himself by gaining new skills that added value to his position and the company as a whole.

How Kosmos Can Help You:

Kosmos applications are easy to share. You can easily grant colleagues access to see your application’s dashboards and sensor data readings. They won’t even need to download any software or apps. Simply logging in on any browser on a computer, tablet, or smartphone is all that it takes.

Additionally, the data Kosmos collects is easy to export. That means you can pull all your data into a spreadsheet to create your own reports and share them around.

Sharing your dashboards is as simple as entering an email address.

5. See How the Data and Functionality You’ve Created Can Have Other Uses

Before moving on to your next application or project, take a look at what you’ve already built and the data you’ve collected.

It likely has uses beyond what you built it for. Often this comes up after you’ve shared your initial success with your colleagues.

Example:

An aviation company we work with built an automated alert system using Temboo for their storage facility, which contains very sensitive airplane parts and instruments.

This system sends them alerts whenever the temperature or humidity conditions pose any risk for their equipment.

The system also logs the readings every hour, so they can review historical data and analyze any underlying problems with their facility.

When the company had their next FAA audit, they shared these logs with the inspectors, who found them very helpful. The end result was that the inspectors had even more confidence in the company, and the audit went faster and more smoothly than usual.

Sensor data has all sorts of unexpected uses.

How Kosmos Can Help You:

The Kosmos IoT System dashboard on a computer, tablet, and phone.

Since Kosmos provides well-designed dashboards that are easy to understand and export data from, you don’t need to be an expert or even familiar with the underlying application to find them useful.

When users are not bogged down with learning all the details of the system or with parsing through hard-to-decipher data, they can benefit more from it. Additionally, this level of accessibility and legibility in the data often helps people find other uses for it.

6. See How Your Existing Application Can Be Modified for Other Uses

The organizations that are most successful in implementing new connected sensor technologies don’t reinvent the wheel every time they try a new implementation.

Example:

One of our manufacturing customers was using temperature sensors combined with proximity sensors that tracked whenever the freezer doors in their facility were opened.

Workers in a bakery

After seeing the success of this system, they realized that they could use nearly the exact same setup for their industrial ovens. All they had to do was swap out different temperature and proximity sensors that could handle the extreme heat conditions of the ovens.

That was it. They developed a new IoT application with very little effort just by applying what they already knew to a new area.

How Kosmos Can Help You:

Beside being quick and easy to setup, Kosmos also enables users to make modifications to their applications easily.

This may involve adding new sensors to an existing application, setting up new alerts and rules, or creating other functions. All of it can be done in a snap with over-the-air updates to a Kosmos gateway.

This ease of flexibility combined with the fact that Kosmos works with hardware from a different manufacturers, means applications with similar architectures can be deployed, tweaked, and improved in the click of a button.

7. Build New IoT Capabilities on Top of Existing Ones

It’s important to use a light touch when implementing new technologies. You definitely want to avoid breaking what already exists and making everything worse off.

I always advise people to keep whatever existing hardware or system they have in place at first. Then, try to collect data from what’s already there by reading any internal sensors or by placing connected sensors on or nearby what’s being monitored.

Programmable Logic Controller

Example:

A major U.S. city has chosen to use Kosmos to monitor all the water pumps in a massive, old manufacturing complex it manages.

One way they could have done this would have been to replace all the pumps with new ones that have connectivity out of the box. But that would be incredibly expensive and disruptive to the hundreds of tenants in the complex.

Instead, they decided to use Kosmos to automate data collection from the existing controllers on all of the water pumps. That means that pumps don’t need to be replaced, and IoT capabilities can be built on top of what’s already in place.

How Kosmos Can Help You:

Kosmos provides so many options for gathering collected sensor data that you can purposely design your IoT application to minimize any disruption.

You can use our Modbus support to collect data from existing PLC and industrial systems.

You can use the multiple environmental sensors we support to learn more about facilities or machines (for example, by placing a vibration sensor on the exterior of an motor).

And then there are the programmable edges Kosmos support, like the ESP32, that allow for a lot of customization.

Getting Started

So how do you get started?

Well, just start. One of the easiest ways to put these principles into practice is by trying out Kosmos. After all, we designed the whole system with these best practices in mind.

To make things easier, we even offer a free trial of Kosmos. If you have your hardware ready to go, you can implement a pilot project with Kosmos to see how it will work for your needs.

If you want help with setting up your system, you can always reach out to us anytime via the chat widgets throughout our site or by emailing hey@temboo.com. We’ll even schedule a phone call with you to work through all the ideas and opportunities where Kosmos can help your organization.

Subscribe to Temboo’s newsletter

* indicates required
Posted by:Vaughn Shinall, Head of Product Outreach

Vaughn leads the Product Outreach team at Temboo. He spends his days connecting people, places, and machines while helping customers implement IoT technologies.