The Internet of Things is already well embedded in many industries. But how well is the IT industry adapting its resources to this juggernaut of change?

Two major announcements in the last 2 weeks provide more evidence (if, in fact, any more was needed) that the network to support the Internet of Things is taking on a very credible shape indeed. Now more than ever is the time to get on board if the IT field services industry doesn’t want to get left behind.

Telstra’s announcement of a successful first trial of the 5G mobile network, supported by advances in the introduction of the long-awaited NBN, heralds the quantum leap in speed needed to handle the vast amounts of data the Internet of Things will generate. And it’s this level of capability which will benefit a $10M program of initiatives just announced between the National Farmers’ Federation and financial services firm, Findex.

Designed to spur innovation among start ups and tech players in the so-called ‘agtech’ space, a new body called ‘SproutX’ will run the initiatives and promote a more concerted approach to support and develop innovative ideas within the agriculture community. The potential for field services from just these two announcements alone makes for an exciting prospect.

But are manufacturers and producers really convinced about the possibilities of the Internet of Things? Although it’s a term that’s been around for quite a few years now, it still hasn’t quite shaken off its futuristic, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy connotations. Yet, in reality the Internet of Things is already well embedded in many industries. Estimates may vary as to how interconnected we currently are, with some reports suggesting the world has 8 billion Internet-connected devices, others saying it’s around 13 billion. Either way, it’s a phenomenon that is not going away. The Internet of Things is no longer something that will change the way we do business or manage our lives. It’s doing so now.

Take Tasmania’s oyster farmers. Growing oysters is a delicate job, for which farmers used to rely on inaccurate rainfall predictions to assess water quality and the risk of their oysters picking up contaminants. With $120,000 a day in revenue at risk if their oysters became contaminated, much was at stake. That is, until now. With the support of the Tasmanian Government, oyster farms are installing sensors that relay salinity and water temperature data from the estuaries where oysters grow to software that integrates the water data with weather data.

By comparing that day’s information with data from previous days and weeks, the farmers are able to make better decisions about risk of contaminants and when to harvest their oysters, which, as well as potentially saving millions in revenue, helps them to better organise staffing rosters.

 

It’s not just the food industry that’s realising the potential of the Internet of Things. Travel north to Port Hedland in Western Australia and you will find technology often derived from the defence industry being used in mines to harmonise production. Indeed, mine machinery is fast transforming from a heavy duty tool for iron ore production to a platform for the Internet of Things.

Mines in the state – and in other locations – are using sophisticated readers to monitor ore dust, operate driverless trucks and experiment with remote control drilling and predictive maintenance. Rio Tinto’s fleets of driverless trucks, for example, have covered the equivalent of more than five trips to the moon and back in the last two years. Such vehicles are covered with sensors: around 40 on each huge tyre, with other sensors located around the vehicles to form a cloud of data points that create a 3D map of the trucks’ surroundings for navigation.

It’s clear just from these examples that to say a fully-fledged Internet of Things will be massive, is to flirt recklessly with understatement. The ‘4th industrial revolution’, as this leap in technology is sometimes described, is undoubtedly transformative. It will have an unfathomable impact on all our lives, not just big businesses. On a simple personal level, for instance, using an app to double check we have locked the front door as we fly off on our holidays undoubtedly gets the holiday off to a great start.

But who installs and repairs the sensors for the mining companies and the oyster farmers? Not to mention the sensors for your home’s new security system?

Perhaps this is the biggest revolution being brought about by the Internet of Things: the transition of information technology from desktops and data centres into the field.

As the Internet of Things makes the world more closely connected, it’s moving us further away from traditional technology. And it is clear there will be an increasing service gap. As the Internet of Things gets into full swing, it is evident that the service needed to connect the physical devices to the smart technology is not fully in place.

Supporting the Internet of Things is not going to be easy. The billions of units that will be communicating with each other in just a few years will have countless service points and a huge amount of unpredictability. It will take real thought to streamline all the servicing needs of configuration, set up, backup, security and a whole host of other requirements.

BEST Technology Services’ analysis of the market demonstrates that it’s time to think differently about resourcing. The vastness of the Internet of Things means it no longer makes sense for partners to build teams of in-house low skilled technology resources. BEST is already seeing an even greater requirement for the IT industry to access a flexible and responsive outsourced workforce.

As the Internet of Things juggernaut continues to bear down, the industry is embracing some of the dramatic changes and opportunities being created by the Internet of Things. It’s time to embrace changes and opportunities in how we resource, too.

It’s apparent that hardware and software manufacturers, consultants and the like who fail to outsource or make partnerships for the installation of the Internet of Things’ infrastructure will be left behind.

Opportunity is knocking very loudly on the IT industry’s door; who’ll be the first to open it?

BEST Technology Services welcomes your thoughts and comments. To discuss any of the commentary in this article, contact John McVicker. For more on how Best Technology Services’ field services capability can support your outsourcing, go to www.best-ts.com.au.

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