The adoption of IoT is being driven by the need for Process Automation

The deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT) is moving from early adoption and is moving towards maturity for many industries. Using IoT to gain visibility into their physical assets to understand asset utilisation, health and location is definitely the way forward but is not the final outcome. The real power comes in the action that can be taken, driven by the data and the business process automation that can enable new levels of agility for a business.

Automation can fall into a number of categories; automation of physical processes, the automation of back-office tasks and business process, automated reporting, automated exchange of data within a value chain such as supply chain, and automated alerting if a physical response is required by a person.

Automating Physical Assets 

The most prominent examples here relate to both smart manufacturing and smart buildings. Let’s look at Smart Manufacturing for example. With the arrival of Industry 4.0, IIoT (Industrial IoT) speaks to the ability to collect data from machines and other manufacturing systems to both optimise production output and reduce downtime. As an example, customer orders data can be used to optimise the production line settings required for the forthcoming task. In addition to this, IoT sensors can be used to help manage inventory or leveraged in conjunction with machine learning to predict machine part failure and ensure maintenance can be handled without impacting the entire production line.

Automation of Back-office Tasks

Here we refer to IoT data triggering a back-office task or process, which can be further enhanced when RPA (Robotic Process Automation) can automate the task itself. For example, IoT data related to inventory, triggering a purchase order to a supplier or ordering a part for a failing field asset when a failure is detected or predicted.

Automated Reporting

An example of this might be for food standards compliance where refrigeration must sit within certain tolerances for different food products. Historically, this might be a paper reporting exercise performed by a person taking a reading and recording it. Now this can be recorded in real-time using IoT sensors and automating alerting if thresholds are exceeded to ensure compliance and reduce food waste.

Automated Data Exchange

This is critical in supply chain where data relating to the location of goods, as well as inventory levels is needed by the whole chain to achieve optimisation. This enables better supply chain planning, reduced disruption and optimised B2B process interactions between the various parties involved.

Triggering Human Intervention

We often see this with systems that relate to situational awareness and public safety. With the introduction of AI and Computer Vision, technology is increasing the understanding of what it is seeing. AI powered cameras are now able to, for example, detect suspicious packages, potentially violent situations and crowding where it creates risk. Triggered alerts then allow the right people to then handle the situation.

In Summary

IoT and process automation is now a business imperative. The world of IoT is now keeping an eye on every aspect of the assets we use and the spaces we occupy. It is critical that organisations pay attention to the processes they implement and the interconnections between those processes and the IoT technology as this is key to drive process automation and the benefits it provides to an organisation.