IoT and connecting the dots.

During Stanford graduation speech Steve Jobs said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

For me, work on the IoT projects is connecting my dots as it gives me an opportunity to combine three key areas of my interest:

  • User-Centric solutions bringing value to the people,
  • Business processes improvement,
  • Deployment of versatile technological solutions including both software and hardware.

Internet of Things redefines business and society. IoT projects are multidimensional and require multidisciplinary teams working together. Creating something new is always exciting but also has a lot of risks related to uncertainty and availability of suitable components.

By 2020 there will be nearly 20 billion devices connected to the Internet. IoT allows companies and cities to understand and optimise the existing processes, identify areas for improvements and give valuable insights for the decision makers. Delivery of IoT project is a very complex activity often engaging third parties such as research laboratories and universities. Organising it is incredibly interesting as it requires a high-level overview, going deeper into the problems but also a lot of facilitation between with business and the delivery team.

While working in the Sharing Cities program I had an amazing opportunity of making smart cities the reality. Through international collaboration between various cities, we were developing affordable, integrated, commercial-scale smart city solutions with high market potential. While building a smart city for London and working closely with Lisbon and Milan, Bordeaux, Burgas and Warsaw I’ve learned a lot about IoT project mostly because of o variety of the work streams. Below I collected the key takeaways which can be applied also to the smaller projects.

Define the principles

As you develop knowledge about the project and potential approaches to the delivery it’s easy to drift in different directions and chase new shining ideas, but the project has fixed time frames and budgets. Therefore, it’s essential to define overarching guidelines which are very helpful while choosing the right approach. For this particular program they are:

  • Scale
  • Digital First
  • Share and Collaborate for society
  • Open-up and accelerate the market

Starting with the principles is preliminary to the project’s goals definition. As they usually address different dimensions of the program such as business objectives and values for the different types the “wish list” may be really long and needs to be quickly validated by the stakeholders as it will drive may decisions with regards to the tech stack or commercial choices for example: licensed versus open source solutions.

Keep it simple

Before you notice the “wish list” is longer than your budget and you need to prioritise and organise it into some logical picture.

While the delivery of the solution new people and teams are joining the initiative on different stages. Hence, it’s extremely important to be equipped with materials that will speed up the onboarding process of the new joiners whether it’s a new team member, consultant or participant of the workshop. As people responsible for the project we need to ensure on a regular basis that we are moving into the right direction and if we want to achieve valuable outcomes we need to give people enough context of the activity. Preferably in a visual way, in this case, the various categories have been grouped into three simple areas:

People: focused on the work streams developing the user engagement through workshops, sessions and communication,

Place: capturing the various data sources such as smart meters, air quality sensors, smart devices providing the data,

Platform providing the technological capability of collecting, processing and analysing the data.

Diagram_02_general_final
Source: sharingcities.com

Prove it!

Before installing sensors across the world start with a small Proof of Concept which will give you a priceless list of valuable insights. Even a quick and dirty data chain from the sensors through the platform up to the dashboards will help you to understand the process better and its constraints. In the projects such as smart city, most of the limitations come from the public procurement process and safety while in the banking and insurance primarily from security and data protection policies.

Summarising, IoT is the future if the technology, it allows to improve users experience, reinvent existing processes and disrupt current business models by deploying the cutting-edge technology.

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