If you've ever wondered where information management and related IT fields are going, or where all the different strands will come together, new research by SAP may have the answer — Machine to Machine (M2M) technologies across a vastly expanded internet are the next step in information and data management.
The Internet of Things
To do this, the Web will become much more than the Web we are familiar with today, becoming what SAP describes as the 'Internet of Things'.
This is a concept that envisages a world where machines, people, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) are all tied up with other information sources like social media, and the capabilities to analyze and use that data where it is needed.
For Sanjay Poonen, Head of Mobile Division at SAP, the entire concept can be summarized as follows:
… M2M technology is primarily being used to collect vast amounts of machine and people-based data. The ‘Internet of Things’ concept goes one step further by not only integrating machines, people, ERP and CRM systems, and other information sources like social media, but also analyzing and making use of all the data. Soon, people will interact with devices that in turn interact with data to deliver personalized products and services directly to the consumer in real time…”
The ultimate outcome of all this, the research says, is to enable people to interact with data and for enterprises to deliver personalized products and services directly to the consumer in real time.
The research itself was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of SAP across 751 IT decision makers in Brazil, China, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and the United States between January 15 and February 1, this year.
SAP, Smart Cities
If the concept sounds familiar then think smart cities, because smart cities is where all this information interaction will take place. In fact, one of the questions on the survey asked where IT decision makers thought information management technologies and people might connect. In response, 30% said that smart cities would be the logical place. Smart cities are identified as cities that are capable of collecting and analyzing large amounts of data from smart, connected devices and citizens’ social media activity in real time.
The goal is to improve urban life, which it will by responding to real world events as well as ensuring more efficiency, productivity and collaboration among those signed up to it. It also promises to increase mobility across the workforce in these cities.
The development of M2M technologies is a natural part of technological evolution, the research says. It found that the IT decision makers (ITDM) surveyed viewed this as the natural evolution of the “consumerization of IT,” with India and China at 92% percent and 90% believing this to be the case. The majority of Brazilian, German, UK and US ITDMs also agreed, with a combined average of 81 percent.
Given that SAP estimates by 2020 the number of ‘things’ connected to the internet will hit 50 billion with the drive towards its transformation coming from consumers rather than enterprises, it is not really a surprise that smart cities should also include CRP, ERP and analytics technologies.
At an enterprise level, in all six countries surveyed, an average of 70% of ITDMs said they believed that enterprises needed to adopt M2M technologies or risk falling behind their competitors. The benefits of doing so were identified as:
- Greater insight into their business
- Agile response to real-world events
- Increased workplace efficiency
- Increased employee productivity
- Increased collaboration across the enterprise
- Increased and more flexible workforce mobility
But we're not there yet, and there is some way to go before the vision of smart cities supported by M2M technology will be realized.
In all six countries, the biggest problem was lack of expertise — a problem we have seen before in all areas related to big data and analytics. While the level of expertise, or to be more accurate, the lack of expertise, depends on the country under scrutiny, it is generally accepted to be the biggest hurdle.
Connectivity across management, security and big data and analytics were also cited as issues with only a few companies like SAP and IBM able to offer technology that bridge all these disciplines.
On top of this, ITDMs from all six countries were quite clear that the availability of broadband infrastructure, such as LTE/4G, will be instrumental in allowing M2M technologies to flourish in the future.
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