Kathy Gibson reports from SAP TechEd in Barcelona – SAP is moving quickly with its intent to spend $2-billion on developing its Internet of Things (IoT) capacity, and has announced two new products in its IoT portfolio.
The first is a parking application developed in collaboration with parking management company Designa.
The app allows truck drivers to easily find overnight parking while on the road by letting companies rent out their parking lots during the night and weekends when they would otherwise be standing empty.
Across Europe, there is a shortage of about 14 000 truck parking spaces, so truck drivers spend a lot of time looking for their next rest stop and often parking in unsecured areas.
Using the new SAP application on an Internet-enabled device, they are able to pre-book parking spot in a company’s lot.
On entry, the truck’s licence plate is scanned to confirm its identity and when it leaves, online payment is done automatically.
Bosch has become the first company to sign up to the system, with its car park alongside the autobahn made available for truckers at night and on weekends.
SAP Connected Parking runs in the cloud and could easily be extended to other use cases such as smart city parking and more.
SAP has also launched tools to help companies build their own IoT applications, with IoT Application Services.
These services are a component of SAP Microservices, giving developers a “thing” model, business partner authorisation and inclusion of partner and the customers’ own microservices with the SAP offerings.
Mash-up services are the next step in building IoT application and these take the form of IoT Mash-up Service Builder for web-based service composition, event and API-driven application flow modelling, and the selection of reusable processes.
User interfaces are built using IoT Application Builder, a web-based development environment that includes IoT project templates and user interface components; a rules modeller; and a KPI modeller.
Tanja Rueckert, executive vice-president: digital assets and IoT at SAP, points out that IoT deployments are growing – but it’s generally not what customers start out looking for,
“Customers don’t typically come to use asking for an IoT solution, or to transform their business models,” she says. “They are more likely to start off talking about the pain points that are preventing them from attaining greater efficiency.”
These could be around reducing downtime, increasing machine efficiency, better fleet management or improving the quality of urban life.
It is in solving these problems that new business models are developed, often transforming products into services that add value.
“And it all starts with us,” says Rueckert. “Our expectation as a consumer and customer has gone up dramatically. We want things to happen on the same day, at the same time. And we want it personalised.”
This consumer-driven economy drives digital transformation because of the impact it has on the business.
“It drive new products and services and increases the level of automation,” Reuckert says.
SAP’s IoT solution offers live insights, predictive analytics, optimised processes and new business models.
“We can connect the data from the things to the business process – and the value is generated in the business process,” Reuckert explains.
Gartner says 80% of all business processes will be changed or eliminated in the next three years, so companies are under pressure to utilise the data they gather from things to best optimise their networks and processes.
Data science and machine learning are the major differentiators for a successful IoT implementation, Reuckert says.
“No-one will ever use all this data, and no-one will ever analyse it,” she says. “You need machine learning to apply analytics once you have retrieved data from all the things out there. This analysis can find patterns that are then presented to humans for decision-making and final outcomes.”
Machine learning will help the system to make better decisions as time goes on, and the human intervention in a particular process can be reduced and the people involved can move on to new innovations.
Since IoT is all about connecting millions of devices, Reuckert points out that intelligence needs to move to the edge, so data can be analysed before it travels over the network and takes up resources in the data centre.
SAP allows for this with IoT Connectivity, Security and Edge Computing.
Reuckert describes the SAP HANA Cloud Platform as a big data hub, on top of which is the IoT Foundation and application services that help developers build their own applications using SAP micro-services. This is complemented with the services and applications supplied by SAP.
SAP enables and provides solutions that include connected logistics, connected vehicles, connected manufacturing, connected assets, connected consumer, digital farming and smart cities. These are all built on the HANA Cloud Platform.
Reuckert adds that user experience is vitally important for IoT applications. “Visualisation is a key differentiator,” she says. “No-one wants to have to deal with complex screens. We want to see quickly and easily what is happening, in an appealing user interface.”
Data science is another cornerstone of IoT developments, as it’s important to extract the right data, and draw the right conclusions from it.
IoT is certainly taking off, with 66% of manufacturers planning to increase their investment into IoT-enabled products.
But it’s very success means that IoT is vulnerable to attacks, which is why SAP is investing in blockchain security solutions.
“This allows for transparency, allowing things to be moved, stored and managed securely and privately,” Reuckert says.
Pulling the IoT together is the collaborative network that enables companies to set up new business models. The SAP Asset Intelligence Network lets users analyse and manage asset information; and facilitate the exchange of assets. Analytics opens up new business models that can consume asset information from any part of the network, using standardised taxonomy.
Reuckert says SAP is excited about the potential for IoT and is looking to work with customers, partners and developers to further extend its solution portfolio, and to extend use cases.
And companies should be equally excited, she says, since Iot has the potential to add tremendous value.
“Now is the time to start an Iot project,” Reuckert says. “Companies should be looking to define where they will get the highest value; and start thinking about the next IoT application that will have the biggest impact on the business.”