February 2015

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The Internet of Things (IoT) vs Culture

With the advance in technology comes a gap in the skills versus the needs of the business.
Harry KohalHarry Kohal,
Vice President of Business Development
Eagle Technology, Inc.

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There is nothing more connected in our daily lives than our family. In many cultures family comes above all else, and yet as a parent, there are just some things that your children do, that you might not want to know about. That is the nature of humanity, and this is a guiding principal in the way we live. There are just some things that are more important than others. As we grow, we follow a routine to live orderly lives, we sleep, we eat, we bathe, we watch specific television programs, or read a certain type of book, and we follow this routine day in and day out. Change in our routine many times does not come easy.

When it comes to our jobs, we adapt to a daily routine as well. Depending on the country we live and work in, the process of doing our jobs many times becomes routine, even if you are the owner of the business. As long as the company is doing  well (making a profit) we tend to avoid change, it is human nature. So when we have new technology or new inventions that can change our routine, they are typically approached with caution. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet of things (IIoT) are new terms being applied to capabilities that have existed for decades.  Yes, it is true that we now have more devices that have intelligence built in, like the new washing machine I purchased this year. If there is a problem, I can just dial a phone number, push a button, and the diagnostics will transmit the issue to the factory repair department, so the cellphone provides a route for connectivity. 15 years ago I worked with a manufacturer of doors, all of which had an IP address, and were controlled centrally in a shopping mall, hospital or office building.  We have SCADA systems tying robotics and other machines together which have increased production, and given manufacturers more and better data than ever to maximize machine life, optimize production and thus increase profitability. So why are we calling this automation interface something new? The answer is simple, because we can incorporate data communications and more intelligence at less expense into more devices cost effectively. These devices use IP (Internet Protocol) to communicate, thus connecting these devices becomes easier and more cost effective. Think of this as eliminating Spanish, English, German, Russian, French and every other language, and we all now speak and listen in Klingon!

Human nature affects the way we do business. When business is going well, and profits are good, there is less attention paid to potential additional savings that may seem minor or take too much time and attention away from the everyday processes. As an example, if I am producing a product, and making money, there is little reason to invest in technology, until someone produces a competitive product and erodes the prices, then I am forced to look at how to produce the product more cost effectively. We call these issues “disruptors”. If I lease my building and I am making a good profit, there is no need to invest in energy savings or invest in technology improvements because profits are good, until I can no longer lease the building because rents or tenant costs are too high, then I look at what I have to do to get back on the profitability side of the equation, “counter the disruptor”. When the Check Engine Light or the Oil Light comes on in our automobiles, we react to fix the issue, but if we find the sensor is bad, we might fix it, but it is less expensive to just ignore it and run the car with the light on. If we have the internet of things and it delivers data from a bad sensor, will we just ignore it and keep on running because it is less expensive? Who are we developing in our organizations to analyze and listen to all this data that can accumulate?

The IoT and IIoT will gather and relay more and more data back and forth, collecting valuable data and in some cases more data than the people responsible for the data are prepared to receive, let alone analyze that data. After all, we are very busy in our routine, and there isn’t any extra time in the day for this nonsense; it’s human nature. Businesses will need to invest in training their people to interpret the data. Training budgets have been cut in many organizations due to economic pressures, finding people who have the necessary skills of Big data analysis will be very costly.

In a recent survey conducted by Maintenance Technology Magazine (December 2014) 60% of the companies surveyed had either no plans or the respondent wasn’t aware of any plans to invest in Internet enabled technology. The reason for this percentage should come as no surprise, the people who would have to invest their time and money have a routine as well, and people are resistant to change.

If business is serious about making the Internet of Things a critical part of their infrastructure, leaders will need to acknowledge and plan a major investment in education of their people. In the same survey, 52% of the respondents did not receive any training on the operations of systems that have been put in place in their organizations, internet-enabled solutions. In my daily business, I see reluctance, if not an outright refusal, to invest in training. At one point business leaders realized their most significant asset was their people. With the advance in technology comes a gap in the skills versus the needs of the business. More data means the organization will need people that are better trained in data analysis, and time will need to be allocated to do that analysis.  Will the hype match the delivery? The same article stated that 55% of the respondents felt the IoT wouldn’t have a significant if any impact on their businesses. 

contemporary As technology advances, there are the Early Adopters, and the Laggards to use a Gartner Group classification. The percentage of early adopters versus the percentage of Laggards seems to follow the Pareto Rule, 80-20, 80% do not adopt. If we look at the number of LEED facilities in the US or Green Build Facilities, they are a small fraction of the number of buildings in the world, yet we all know that there are inherent savings which are measurable in building efficiencies using these principles. The same is true when it comes to the Iot and IIot. Implementation of devices which can add value to the collection and dissemination of quality, production, and predictive data is critical to business success (profitability).

The million or in some cases multi-million dollar question is “Is your business going to be a Early Adopter, or a Laggard? Are you prepared to take advantage of the technology? If you are like most people, the answer is a simple “We are investigating what that will mean to our business”, and when you pull this article out of your drawer five years from now, you will say “Oh, we looked at that, but it was too expensive”, or “too much work”, or “It wasn’t worth our time”, or “We were too Busy”. Human nature will let you fall into the trap of doing what you are comfortable doing. I hope your company survives long enough for you to retire into a new pattern of keeping busy.

About the Author

Mr. Kohal is Vice President of Business Development for Eagle Technology, Inc.. Headquartered in Mequon, WI, Eagle Technology has over 25 years of experience in maintenance and facility management.

Harry has worked in the technology sector for health-care, retail, insurance, service industries, and manufacturing organizations and has a degree in Business and Marketing from Marian University.

Harry has co-authored a chapter on facility management in the 21st Century for the APWA Public Woks Administration, CABA articles, and is a frequent speaker on facilities management topics. He has a Masters of Liberal Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. He is a member of CABA, IFMA and PFMA and brings a fresh look to the emerging industry intelligent building management.


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