ERP and the Internet of Things

Recently I saw an article based on an IFS survey that indicated linking ERP and IoT was still a feature for the future. It noted that relatively few businesses had actually connected the world of sensors to their ERP platforms.

IoT, or the Internet of Things, consists of “things” (machinery, equipment, products) around the world with sensors that can automatically capture data in real-time and make that data available for actionable insight. Your home thermostat tracks when you are due to arrive home after work and turns the temperature in your house up. Car Insurance companies use plugins to track the miles you drive and safe driving habits. Store apps can track where you walk. Much of this data is proprietary. But a lot of it is available for purchase or licensed use.

Purchase or rent data

If a business can find data available that relates to their ERP planning, that data could be used to plan replacement products as existing customer products wear out. Another company might schedule service appointments for their customers as sensors alert them that a customer has a product that needs service now or in the near future. Finding that data and acquiring permission to use it can be both difficult and expensive.

Develop our own IoT

So, why not build sensors into our products? An automobile already has a network of sensors controlling the engine, transmission, and other components. Much of the data is stored in memory for a service technician to read and diagnose problems. If the same data were transmitted via the internet through a secure link, the same service technician could already have the diagnosis and be ready for the customer to show up for a repair. The manufacturer could also use the data to improve future vehicles and track defects before the customer even knows they exist. The data would be stored in their ERP for use as needed.

But IoT is not limited to manufacturers.

In healthcare, Smart rooms can monitor patient vitals in real time and alert nurses/doctors when there are changes. Door sensors can read badge cards and light up a patient board with only the information that employee has access to see. And medical equipment like MRI machines can predict problems before they happen – reducing machine downtime.

In agriculture and farming, sensors can measure soil moisture while tracking weather forecasts to maintain optimal soil conditions for crops. Wind farms can use weather forecasts, real-time energy pricing, and customer demand trends to determine when they can produce energy profitably. And livestock, like cattle, can have sensors that alert farmers to changes in health, like infections or going into labor.

Big Brother

Taken to an extreme, if hospitals implanted a transmitter in new babies, they could be tracked throughout life. Truant from school? The principal can detect their location and alert parents. Teenager moving too quickly along a highway? Alert the police and issue a ticket. Late to work? The boss can check if they really are sick at home or possibly at the ball game.

IoT makes available data that can be used for good as well as bad. If useful data to drive our ERP is not easily available, we have the power now to make it quickly available and perhaps help our bottom line at the same time.

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