Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Internet of Things or Internet of Partnerships? 

Pitney Bowes and GE Predix are one example of how collaboration expands organizations' abilities to meet customer needs.

For the Internet of Things to deliver on its promise, enterprises and developers recognize they must partner to create the solutions they need.

IoT can include multiple moving parts – sensors; business intelligence; middleware or platform; analytics; big data; artificial intelligence; cognitive systems; an array of hardware such as smartphones, health devices, and scales – from various developers that must seamlessly integrate to deliver real-time data for usable business insight. In most cases, platform developers recognize they will not design the best of breed analytics or AI solution; rather, they'd prefer to team up with leading developers within those, and other, product categories. Organizations, whether they rely extensively or only partially, on developers or solution providers must still integrate these many moving parts.

"Irrespective of a build or buy approach, IoT markets will strategically and tactically require enterprises to build partnerships and collaborations either for product and service development purposes, for creating channels to market, or for adding value to applications and services," wrote Machina Research in "A New Agenda Item for Enterprise Executives: Enterprise IoT."

As both a developer and user of IoT, Pitney Bowes collaborated with GE to extend both companies' capabilities. Last month, Pitney Bowes announced GE was including Pitney Bowes' location and data quality solutions into Predix, leveraging the commerce and shipping provider's IoT-based logistics knowledge to benefit other businesses, said Pitney Bowes Chief Innovation Officer Roger Pilc in an interview.

Pitney Bowes' geographical location intelligence capabilities cover 122 countries at point and street level, and 240 countries and territories at postal and place levels, the company said. As Pitney Bowes explored ways to further enhance its own IoT solution, it learned of GE Predix, said Pilc. And Pitney Bowes realized the two very different businesses were on a similar IoT journey.

"Our customers were seeking to evolve towards meeting business outcomes more quickly and we were eager to accomplish their business objectives. Those business objectives included greater machine uptime; avoidance of unplanned downtime; higher service levels; greater productivity of work cells – optimized productivity of machines; the use of analytics to do capacity planning into more intelligently scheduled jobs. Ultimately, they wanted to produce more and drive more revenue and more utilization, higher service levels, at reduced costs," said Pilc. "As we got to know executives at GE, particularly [GE software chief] Bill Ruh, and got to understand the power of Predix we got to know GE had been living a parallel life to our own and were a couple of years ahead of us in a few ways."

Like many enterprises, Pitney Bowes considered whether to develop more IoT capabilities internally or with a hosting provider. Despite expertise already creating multiple IoT solutions, Pitney Bowes recognized it required a platform on which to build future IoT competencies unrelated to its current business, a task that would require new skills and new hires, Pilc said.

Roger Pilc: GE and Pitney Bowes were like-minded about IoT.

Roger Pilc: GE and Pitney Bowes were like-minded about IoT.

"GE Predix had the experience," he said. "They had gone through the transformation of service organizations as we had wanted to transform ourselves. They were willing to customize apps for us."

The cost difference is difficult to determine, Pilc said, due to their varying levels of sophistication. The first two applications could have taken Pitney Bowes nine to 15 months longer than it took GE, he said. Pitney Bowes may never have been able to develop the third app, noted Pilc. GE spreads fixed costs for datacenter infrastructure across many customers, making IoT more affordable for each enterprise, he added.

"We have fantastic talent in our company around big data and machine to machine – but not in asset performance or GE's level of experience in analytics for industrial use cases to help transform to consultative services," said Pilc. "We had about half the talent equation, but GE had the other half."

Today, Pitney Bowes collects data about machine availability from clients, using Cisco for secure networking, and moves it to the GE Predix cloud where it's stashed in the big data platform and analyzed in asset performance management software and offered via software as a service, Pilc said. Those receiving data range from Pitney Bowes field service people, who use data to avoid outages by proactively repairing machines before they break and bringing the correct parts and tools on an office visit; customers, who view data on machine performance via dashboards, to learn how to optimize usage, and facilities, that can improve capacity utilization and job scheduling, said Pilc.

Smaller organizations also tap analytics to improve their ability to compete internationally by improving shipping costs to faraway lands, he added.

"We definitely don't share data, even anonymized data, across customers, but we do use the data to help clients themselves, whether it's a big brand or a medium size business be more productive in what they're doing, help them with conversion rates or find the right shipping costs," said Pilc.

Partnerships Expand

Last month, unveiled new agreements with Cisco and Microsoft to encourage further adoption of Salesforce IoT Cloud. Microsoft is using this cloud for its Azure Events Hub, which tracks event data from Office 365. Cisco uses Salesforce IoT Cloud for monitoring its networking hardware to detect problems before they arise.

FlexTechThe FlexTech Alliance – which includes 96 businesses, 42 universities, 14 state and regional organizations, and 11 labs – recently teamed up to create 3D printed wearables for the Pentagon. The Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Hub, to be base in San Jose, Calif., received $75 million from the federal government and will focus on creating high-end 3D printed wearables, laden with electronics and sensors, to be used by the military.

In early September, Blackberry acquired Good Technologies for $425 million in cash, a move widely seen as enabling Blackberry to provide CSOs with a security mobile platform that extends into IoT. The purchase allows Blackberry to incorporate iOS and Android, providing it with an enterprise mobile management offering that has more than 70 security certificates, said R Ray Wang, founder of Constellation Research, in TechCrunch. "… but the real gold here is the ability to get to a platform to support Internet of Things,” he said.

Which partnerships will succeed? Which companies should team up on IoT? Let us know in comments.


About the author: Alison Diana

Managing editor of Enterprise Technology. I've been covering tech and business for many years, for publications such as InformationWeek, Baseline Magazine, and Florida Today. A native Brit and longtime Yankees fan, I live with my husband, daughter, and two cats on the Space Coast in Florida.

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