Uncovering the value of IoT in the Digital Workplace

By Christian Reilly, - Future WorkplaceInsightProductivity

There’s a great deal of excitement about the rise of the internet of things (IoT) and what it might mean for the evolution of the digital workplace.

Coupled with big data and artificial intelligence (AI), there’s scope for major insights. But we must manage implementations and expectations carefully.

Buzzword fatigue is not entirely misplaced. Adopting technology for the sake of it, without clear objectives, rarely offers a return on your investment.

More and more internet-connected devices are flooding into the market. There will be more than 20 billion connected things worldwide by 2020, up from 6.4 billion this year, according to Gartner.

Fitness wearables and smart home technologies have gained a foothold in the consumer market. Industrial IoT systems for managing nuclear power facilities and oil refineries are improving all the time.

But the enterprise is still trying to figure out exactly how new devices, and the data they generate, can boost efficiencies and bottom lines.

Expanding the digital workplace

Our traditional conception of the digital workplace is focused on a human interacting with something that offers a variety of services. It could be a smartphone, an iPad, or a laptop.

These devices might be running native applications, web apps, or providing remote access through something like Citrix Workspace Suite. The paper-based paradigm is dead and fully digital work processes are commonplace, but we can go further than this.

As we stir IoT into the mix, with billions of devices generating data that we never had before, we need to apply the latest AI to analyze it.

Machine-to-machine transactions will increase exponentially. The challenge is to quickly and efficiently analyze data, and then apply the latest techniques from machine learning or AI to act upon it automatically, or semi-automatically.

There’s a massive opportunity here for organizations to uncover valuable insights and there’s scope to reuse them in another context that adds a different kind of value.

We’re extending the notion of the digital workplace beyond human interactions, but change can be difficult and disruptive.

The productivity gap

Every time a new piece of technology is applied, there’s a risk it will have the opposite effect than intended.

Organizations, regardless of the industry they’re in, are naturally resistant to change.

There’s also an inevitable learning curve – the initial implementation of any new technology is going to add complexity because it must integrate with other systems.

The challenge is to employ technology in a holistic sense across business processes to drive tangible productivity gains. To do that, you must understand the devices, the data, the analysis, the output, and the context in which it can be applied.

In retail, for example, you might use near-field communication (NFC) or Bluetooth beacons to track customers and statistically analyze hotspots in your store, so you can maximize revenue with appropriate product placement.

Similar techniques can be used to understand the operational characteristics of any facility. Predictive modeling has the potential to boost productivity or generate revenue.

But it takes time to formulate the right question from a business perspective and then turn that question into an algorithm that can elicit the answers you want.

The real barriers

Security is a major issue that still needs to be addressed. A recent Forrester report warned that a large-scale IoT security breach is inevitable, and that hackers will continue to use IoT devices to spread DDoS attacks.

We can expect security, which took a backseat in the rush to market for IoT, to come to the fore in the next couple of years.

Cost is usually another barrier to entry with new technology, but in this case companies like Microsoft and Amazon are already offering affordable, cloud-based services for data analysis.

Putting together devices and the infrastructure to manage them is relatively inexpensive – what’s lacking here is a clear understanding and appreciation of what’s truly possible.

Before any organization can use IoT to transform the digital workplace, it needs to have a clearly defined use in mind and the talent to deliver.

Without that, it’s like trying to run before you’ve learned to walk.

Take a look at the Future Workplace Visions and Perspectives panel session from Fujitsu Forum


christianChristian Reilly is Vice President & Chief Technology Officer for the Workspace Services Business Unit at Citrix, responsible for technology strategy and platform engineering. 

The Workspace Services Business Unit is the largest within Citrix by revenue. He previously held several key leadership positions at engineering and construction firm Bechtel. Christian is a native of Manchester, England and studied Business & Computing at the University of Central Lancashire, England.

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