Using the internet of things

Many people broadly understand the concept of the internet of things and the premise of disparate devices talking to each other, yet they often struggle to see how this will immediately relate to their own business


For many organisations, the biggest potential of the internet of things (IoT) comes from the gathering and sharing of data gleaned by machines, with not just one siloed business application, but multiple users and functions across organisations, sometimes integrating with other sources of information and even unstructured big data.

John Hicklin, principal consultant for IoT in commercial enterprise markets at IT and business services organisation CGI, identifies a number of potential areas through which organisations can benefit from the adoption of the internet of things.

“The first is reworking the relationships you might have with customers or suppliers,” Mr Hicklin says. He gives the example of a transport business using its own performance data taken from machines in stations to identify potential maintenance issues earlier on, rather than having to wait until problems develop. This could potentially enable manufacturers to have a direct relationship with end-users, he adds, as well as delivering better service for their immediate clients.

Another area is through the use of such information in near real-time, allowing organisations to respond to situations faster, such as better control of the flow of customers around an airport or shopping centre, based on footfall or queue data. “It means you can then make more immediate decisions,” says Mr Hicklin.

Being able to combine the internet of things with big data and mobile solutions is particularly powerful

The ability to share this information with mobile teams, such as in-store retail staff or on-site maintenance personnel, can also help to deliver better customer service. “You can enhance your own operation and the experience of your clients at the same time,” he says.

Being able to combine the internet of things with big data and mobile solutions is particularly powerful. “All these things are about enabling information to move around organisations and, with big data, to incorporate external unstructured data sources as well,” he says. “When you bring all these things together, you start to see the real value.”

An example of this is telent, a leading supplier of maintenance services in the rail industry. CGI have integrated telent’s implementation platform on to a new network powered by Microsoft’s cloud application platform, Azure.

This simplified IT structure enables more sophisticated predictive modelling in which real-time data can be used to monitor closely temperature, vibration, humidity, fault warnings and system alerts. Data is available in a central location to provide access to needed information on mobile apps, via a web browser or through text alerts. Adopting this approach means the company could in the future combine such insight with social media feeds, providing valuable customer insight.

“If you start to mix information around asset monitoring with unstructured data around what people are saying on the internet about performance, you start to get a view of how this will impact your customer service and how you can influence that,” says Mr Hicklin. “There’s quite an enrichment potential.”

There are a number of sectors which lend themselves particularly well to exploiting the internet of things, he believes. Transportation is one, while there is also potential in smart buildings and infrastructure, as well as the healthcare and retail markets. “We’re now seeing examples of organisations which have traditionally used siloed machine-to-machine solutions taking advantage of this new generation of technology,” he says.

CGI’s own area of expertise as a systems integrator is in working with clients and IT partners to provide a managed service using Microsoft’s Azure Intelligent Systems Service, says Mr Hicklin, and then helping them to take full advantage of the internet of things, through both the enhancement of existing legacy services and the development of new applications.

Often businesses may have existing technology in place which does a good job in a siloed capacity, he adds, meaning this can be incorporated into any new solution. “We’d work with the client to look at where there is clear value in getting better asset performance and would do a pilot stage, looking not just around the technology, but also the business case,” says Mr Hicklin. “New cloud-based technology enables us to do this step by step, and get things up and running much quicker than would have been possible before.”

To find out more about how CGI can unlock the value of the internet of things for your business, visit http://www.cgi-group.co.uk/solutions/internet-of-things or call Carl Vaughan on +44 7919 227 028