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IoT and the perishable enterprise

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John Candish, Head of IoT Products and Adam Brito, VP Asia Pacific and Japan at SAP Digital Interconnect, look at the part that the Internet of Things plays in enabling and protecting the perishable enterprise.

 

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In recent years, interconnectivity has come to play a key role in enabling and protecting the perishable enterprise. What do we mean by the perishable enterprise? It’s any business or part of a business that needs to store, transport or distribute perishable or sensitive goods. These include items such as chilled and frozen food and drinks, but also, essential medical and biological supplies and materials such as medicines and blood.

Many of the machines and facilities used to manufacture and store these goods, and the vehicles used to transport them, are now connected via sensors and SIM cards to the Internet of Things (IoT), the catch-all term for the network of connected devices and the data they generate that are all around us, whether we realise it or not.

These sensors check the status of the object they are monitoring, whether it’s a room, a delivery lorry, container or some other object or its location, so that if something goes wrong – perhaps the temperature falls below or rises above a defined threshold, managers are alerted to the problem the instant it occurs and can set about fixing it.

 

It’s a much more efficient system than relying on manual checks at defined time intervals. It enables enterprises to know, for example, in real-time that the refrigeration on a chilled delivery vehicle has failed mid-journey at the moment of failure, so that they can minimise the interruption to service. And it prevents the damage that can be caused to a brand’s supply chain, reputation and its relationships with its customers by spoiled products and recalls.

 

But the Internet of Things isn’t some kind of magic show. For an IoT-based system to function properly, there are a host of challenges to be addressed, around issues such as scale, security and, for any global business, multi-country coverage as the delivery vehicles constantly cross borders on their journey. Many large enterprises feel it’s best to leave the set-up and management of the system in the hands of specialists with the necessary relationships, connections – in the true sense of the word – and ability to scale. Especially since the IoT is no longer seen as something nice to have; rather, it’s essential.

 

Coverage
Let’s take a look at some of those issues mentioned earlier. Let’s take a single delivery lorry as an example of an object in which an IoT-driven sensor is typically installed. If we assume our lorry is delivering goods from, say, the UK, to various European countries, then clearly, it is going to cross from one country to the next several times. As it does so, the connectivity it enjoyed via a mobile operator in the country it just left is now meaningless, unless it can guarantee similar and uninterrupted connectivity in the country it just entered.

The way to ensure this, of course, is to strike agreements with mobile operators (MNOs) in each country. This can be done, of course, but it requires a great deal of time and effort, and it’s not sufficient to simply cut a deal with one operator in each country, because in any given country, there will be areas best served by one operator, and other areas best served by another.

 

To guarantee the sort of always-on, always-connected availability that these systems demand, you need a lot of operator interconnections. At last count, SAP Digital Interconnect was connected to more than 1,000 mobile network operators worldwide, across 220 countries and territories. These connections come from our 20-year heritage of connecting enterprises to mobile networks to enable them to deliver various services. These connections are so well established and integrated into our systems and services that switching between mobile operators in any given country is seamless.

And it’s not all about mobile. Any IoT partner an enterprise chooses to work with must be able to offer a variety of connectivity options – cellular, Wi-Fi, NarrowBand-IoT, satellite – SIM form factors, and use cases.  

 

Security
When you add connectivity to an object, you immediately put it at risk of being compromised. We’re all familiar with phishing and SMS spams – the world of IoT is no different. A SIM card could be tampered with in order to spoof or spam the network or repurposed for malicious activity. If your connected devices are protected with an appropriate level of security, you can see instantly when such an attack has taken place and immediately block the SIM remotely.

You can also set limits in terms of usage for individual SIMs and be alerted if these are breached. Or use source traceability to provide a real-time audit trail for where things came from. This makes it harder for bad actors to pilfer goods or fraudulently insert goods mid-journey. By protecting your connected devices, you can be confident that the data and insight they deliver, on which you base your decisions, can be trusted. After all, the intelligent enterprise is only as intelligent as the data that it bases its decisions on.

 

Scale
As the number of objects an enterprise needs to bring into its IoT network, the complexity of managing that network increases exponentially. In this scenario, a managed service that spans operator networks worldwide and provides access to multiple pieces of essential functionality, such as connectivity, provisioning, and device and data management, through a single portal, can help mitigate the complexity inherent in IoT.

 

SAP IoT Connect 365, is a managed, cloud-based mobile service that connects any object or thing that can be monitored or controlled from a remote location to your enterprise. It simplifies the connectivity of the IoT with a single contract, connection, and interface. And it provides a well-connected, cost-efficient, and secure environment that enables enterprises to easily and consistently deploy, access, control, and monitor interconnectivity worldwide between their connected objects, business systems and applications. 

We currently work with more than 500 enterprise customers and process tens of billions of messages monthly. If you’d like to find out more about IoT and other challenges that face enterprises, read “Connectivity: The Foundation for IoT Value Creation” and “Managing IoT Connectivity for Tomorrow: Growing your connected device business”.

 

About the Author
John Candish leads the global business for SAP IoT Connect 365 for the SAP Digital Interconnect organization His goal is to make connecting IoT devices globally simpler for all enterprises. John has worked in both technical and commercial roles. Prior to his current position, John headed the global business for SAP IPX 365 mobile service for SAP Digital Interconnect.
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