Inside-out and upside-down, the Internet of Things turns everything around. With smart sensors crunching numbers at the edge, and multi-tiered information architectures responding to all manner of events in real- or near-real-time, organizations the world over are sending traditional methods topsy-turvy as they reinvent how business gets done.
In all earnest, IoT really does change everything. Think client-server times mainframe, divided by the cloud and factored across a whole range of new equations for making things happen. That about sums it up, at least in the abstract. On the ground, there are new products, services, analytics, designs, deliverables, receivables, circumstances and plans. The new new is here.
In the cloud, meanwhile, are the engines for handling whole new categories of transactions. This next generation of data-driven systems can take any number of forms, with cloud architectures varying significantly from one provider to another. Some are optimized for enterprise workloads; others for consumers. What the innovators are learning is that scale-out optimization is the key.
So noted Thibault Celier of VISEO in a recent InsideAnalysis interview. As head of IoT innovation for the 1,300-employee consultancy, Celier boasts a decade of experience in an industry that's just now starting to take off. He explained that thorough planning is a critical success factor for designing IoT solutions that improve user experiences. Step one is what their partner SAP calls Design Thinking.
"Design thinking is a way to place the user at the heart of the innovation process," he said. "Our company strategy is really that innovation is not coming from startups or technologies, but from the end users and the customer observation. It's really focused on the end user. We are working, for example, with ethnologists and psychologists to understand the problems and to describe the problems. It's really important for us."
Celier explained that VISEO created specialized innovation centers as part of their One Roof program. The idea is to bring clients into their production studios, much like filmmakers bring all the talent into a studio for producing movies. "We are incubating our customer's project in our building. It's a way to go faster. They come with their vision, their idea, and they leave with a platform or product," he said.
In doing so, VISEO has taken the IoT metaphor to another level. Not only do the information architectures often invert, but now, the actual process of creating solutions has been turned around. The One Roof program expedites solution design and delivery by allowing customers to immerse themselves in the new possible. They can extricate themselves from the day-to-day operations and bureaucracies of their own organizations, and focus intently on creating these new, customer-focused programs.
Solutions At Scale
One critical success factor, noted Celier, is to really understand and appreciate the nature of a solution being built. In particular, the scale-out strategy is a major driver of design. "We're convinced that the early stage in the innovation process, with prototypes and experimentation, are the most crucial phase in the project, because it is when and where you are building the conditions of scaling."
How and when scalability will affect the solution determines the architecture of the data flow and processing. In some cases, edge computing will make sense. In others, only data collection and transmission occurs at the fringe, while the serious processing takes place in the cloud, or even in an on-prem data center. Getting the architecture right is important to ensure that once the solution does take off, there are only minor hiccups.
VISEO has been building their IoT platform for a decade, and the lessons they've learned along the way are invaluable now, as they work with a whole range of top-tier clients, including one of the most respected car manufacturers in the world, or multinational retailer Carrefour. "We are setting infrastructure for this complex platform to collect data, and so to accelerate, to make the world a programmable space, actually."
The end result is an on-ramp for their customers that expedites time to value. In the case of Carrefour, VISEO has been working since 2014 on a device called Pikit, designed to streamline the purchase of goods for the home. "Pikit is an object that is placed in your kitchen and you can buy stuff by scanning the barcode of the old product you have in your kitchen. It's a smart scan, actually. You can also talk to the smart scan if you don't have the product in front of you. It's a way to ease the online experience with no screen."
Celier notes that this is exactly the kind of value-driven solution they have envisioned for IoT. "It's not about drafting a business case with 100 positing hypotheses; it's about building innovative services that are real responses to a user issue. These services have to be desirable for the end customers. They need to have a business value, and it has to be technically feasible at scale."
For the auto manufacturer, as you might expect, the connected car is top-of-mind. "Connected car is really a great topic these days. What we are seeing is that car makers have to move fast because new technology will make selling cars a bit harder these days. Car sharing is booming and will be a reality in the coming years. Leasing is becoming the regular way to buy a car, and of course autonomous cars and car sharing will change the way the car is used with different owners. Car makers have to move fast, and today they have very slow industrial processes. They need to react faster to these market shifts."
VISEO just recently landed a major deal with this auto legend, and is currently working on a range of functionality, partnering with one of the biggest software firms in the world. "We have won a big deal a few months ago, and we are working on the new generation of connected car. It's a very agile project, a very global one. It's a fantastic project."
Celier explained that VISEO will enable the next generation of innovations for the smart car. "Tomorrow, you will have the ability to lock your car using your smartphone, or launch the air conditioning through your smartphone." These are just some examples of how the connected car will make life easier for all of us.
In summary, Celier noted that VISEO's role is that of the comprehensive partner in modern innovation. "Our value is really orchestrate all the different and necessary types of expertise in IoT projects, and to finish them for our clients. We have the ability to accompany from idea to prototype, and also to scale. We have a very innovative approach concerning scaling."