Graham Williamson on IoT Project Success
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Graham Williamson on IoT Project Success

Andrea Beskers
Published on Aug 10, 2021

Graham Williamson, Senior Analyst at KuppingerCole, is to deliver a presentation entitled Meeting Expectations – 5 pillars for IoT project success on Tuesday, September 14 starting at 7:20 pm. at EIC 2021.

To give you sneak preview of what to expect, we asked Graham some questions about his planned presentation.

How would you describe the current state of the IoT industry sector?

If there was one word to use to characterize the current state of the IT sector, it would be ‘exciting.’ The current situation we have is over the last few years, there has been a significant decrease in the cost of equipment, infrastructure, and there has been a significant increase in the functionality of that infrastructure. So, we are at a juncture where things that weren't viable just a few years ago now are, and I would encourage any organization to think through how they can make use of automated processes, monitoring of things that were too expensive to monitor before and see how they could improve their customer service through the use of IoT (Internet of Things). Because if they're not, it’s likely their competitors are, so focus on what you can do, analyse the cost of doing that and then run an experiment and see if it's going to generate the facilities that you'd like to.

I mean, if we just think back a few years, we can now in the packaging industry, track a package from here in Australia through to Munich in Germany, and we can do that real-time. It's a phenomenal capability we now have. If we think in the industry 4.0 area, we can now assist in a manufacturing process far better than we ever have been able to do before. Can I tell you a little story? Penfolds wine is a Penfold producer here in Australia, ships to China. One of the problems they do have is counterfeiting of their wine. So, one of the features now, the factors that they used in determining whether a wine is counterfeit is the level of filling in a bottle through their IoT systems. They fill a bottle to 750 ml to the micro millimeter. So obviously in comparison with the counterfeiter, that's a significant benefit. So, think through the things that you can do with IoT, give it a shot. And I think we'll find that the viability of an IoT supportive process is pretty significant these days.

A recent survey indicated that many IoT deployments fail to achieve expectations. Why is that?

I think there’re several factors that lead to this level of satisfaction that you achieve from an IoT installation. One of the features that we have with IoT industries is quite fragmented, which means that you have to have a good understanding of the capability of a vendor or a consulting organization that you might engage to help with your actual deployment. And I'll be the first one to agree that that's not easy. Now, many of the vendors [and] customers that were actually part of that survey had actually done an experimental deployment. So, they had this idea and they wanted to try it and see how it worked.

And in doing that, they didn't really know what their expectations were. And if you don't know what your expectations are, it's pretty hard to meet them. So, I would suggest that as you enter into the IT space – if it's the first-time installation for you – that you think through what it is you want to achieve. You document what you want to achieve. You communicate to others in your organization, what you want to achieve. And then that will help make sure that that implementation will actually do what you're trying to achieve for that particular installation.

What can be done to increase the level of satisfaction for IoT deployments?

As with many projects, good project management is very important for an IoT deployment and project management comes in two parts. First, the planning phase, and then there's the execution phase. In the planning phase, you must determine what the requirements are for the project. What are the deliverables for the project? You must engage the correct stakeholders for that. So, the more communication you do with you and your organization to tell people what you're trying to achieve, the more people will come, [be] interested in what you're doing, assist with what you're doing, and the net result then, will have a wider base to determine if it's satisfactory for what they want. The execution phase is important to have a steering committee. So again, you're engaging people within the organization. It's not just one little group in the group in the organization is going ahead and doing this.

You're engaging with a wider base in your organization. And the steering committee is responsible for reviewing progress. You need to make sure that you do set the progress for what sort of schedule you’re going to be on, what are the milestones you want to achieve? What is the budget for that particular project? And once that's approved, you need to manage to that. So, the execution phase requires the review process to happen. It requires the steering committee to be active in removing roadblocks to the project. And with that wider base, that's looking at focusing on helping with the project deployment, we'll find the satisfaction going up. The number of successful projects that we're going to achieve will increase.

How important is cybersecurity to IoT deployments?

I made a projection a couple of years ago that we were going to experience a catastrophic event in the IoT space. Now we have had some interesting events happen, nothing I would classify as catastrophic yet. So, I will still hold to that. If there's one area that we need to apply all the knowledge and the tools that we have, it's in IoT. So, at the device level, we need to make sure how are we managing those? Who has access to them? What sort of a process do we go through when we update them? At the controller level, we need to know who's got access to those. What's the access control list within those devices. At the SCADA level, if we've got a SCADA system, that's a computer that we need to protect just as we protect other computers within our organization.

So, we need to include that in our cybersecurity strategy and tie it into the tools that we have. Now, if we've got a security operation center, it should be monitoring our IoT systems as well. Then there's the output of IoT systems. IoT systems generate a lot of data. In many cases, that data is not properly looked after. And there's people that would be competitors who would be very interested in that data. And so, we need to use the normal processes we have of protecting our data, make sure the database has the security controls on it we want. Make sure we aggregate data and then delete. The chronic problem in IoT systems is the volume of data we need to aggregate it and then delete what we don't need. We need to make sure that we anonymize data if it's going to be put into a place where other people can get a hold of it.

So, we need to think through all of those things that in the information technology centre side, we're pretty good at and apply them to the operational technology side when it comes to IoT data. If we look at some of the problems we've had in the cybersecurity field. So, it was an account takeover problem in a water filtration plant in Florida earlier this year, that could well have been avoided by making sure that the IoT system had the same security level supply to it as we do in the information technology side. So, there should be no remote management software on an IoT system. And please make sure you don't have any mail server anywhere close to any IoT system. And then there was the problem that we had with the software being injected, malware being injected into software, distributed to thousands of companies, you know, we need to make sure that we put the protection in place that allows that to be caught. And I think the industry has done an excellent job of making sure they close that loop. So, let's apply some of the knowledge that we have from the information technology side, in the operational technology side.

What advice would you give to someone deploying their first IoT infrastructure?

That it would be a very exciting time deploying the first IoT deployment solution. If there was one thing that I would say you must do is manage expectations, make sure that the people that are monitoring that project and looking at its deliverables, know what their expectations are for that particular project. I think you need to make sure that that initial deployment isn't too big. Don't try and boil the ocean on your first try. What you want to do is to have a limited deployment that allows you to gain experience and the experience that the team builds up in its initial deployment obviously is going to then feed through to the rest of the project so that we might then think of. So, segment your solution, do one bit at a time, and make sure that you communicate and celebrate the success that you have as you proceed. And so, communication is a very important part of that initial IoT deployment to make sure that people are aware of what it is you're trying to achieve. And then use that when they say, okay, we've achieved it.


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