By: Bryan Tantzen
Enterprises around the world are transforming their operations in response to the global pandemic. One new enterprise challenge and requirement coming out of 2020 is business resiliency. To address this need, enterprises are expanding the automation and digitization of the operational space via the Internet of Things (IoT).
At Cisco, we think of business resiliency as having two prongs: 1) the workforce and 2) the workplace. For the workforce, business resiliency means the ability to work remotely in a secure manner. For the workplace, it’s a matter of having a trusted work environment.
But we know business resiliency is about much more than maintaining operations during a global crisis. Business resiliency solutions for the operational space can deliver powerful new outcomes. In the operational space, business resiliency solutions lead to a safer work environment, increased output, reduced downtime, and new customer offerings.
Business resiliency is driving the next wave of pervasive automation
For many enterprises, the journey to automation began a couple decades ago with a goal of improving productivity. Robots were used to automate individual processes, but material flow between automation systems was performed manually.
Today, in an effort to reduce human exposure, business resiliency is driving automation to be more autonomous and connected. Enterprises with partially automated processes are extending that automation end to end so that devices are fully interconnected and function with little human interaction. Some enterprises are even moving to remote and autonomous automation, both of which eliminate the need for an operator to be physically at the line. Instead, operators can be hundreds of miles away at a safe location.
Automation is driving the next wave of digitization
Digitization is also evolving, driven by automation. Enterprises have gone from digitizing back-office functions such as finance and HR, to digitizing the customer interaction, to accelerating business efficiencies, most recently with big data and cloud computing. Prior to organizational shifts brought on in 2020, enterprises were connecting IoT devices, and generating massive amounts of data to drive analytics at the cloud and edge. It was about connecting the virtual world and using analytics to drive predictive maintenance and replacing inefficiencies with automation using data. But it’s a thin slice of data compared to the phase we’re entering now.
Driven by business resiliency and the need for agility and flexibility, digitization is expanding to connect the physical world. It’s driving people to take the next step around fully connecting environments, automation, and moving people into new roles where they can be safer while maintaining production levels.
Warning: new connectivity challenges ahead
These new levels of automation and digitization significantly change the technology requirements we see at the edge in IoT programs. To deliver on their business resiliency initiatives, enterprises need an infrastructure that supports:
- Zero-latency data for real-time control of unmanned vehicles, to make decisions faster, and support for applications at high speed
- More network bandwidth to accommodate pervasive video, automated guided vehicles, thermal imagery, and 3D sensors
- New cyber security capabilities to protect an expanding threat surface
- Simplified scalability to deploy and manage more devices across more locations with the same resources
- Edge compute to process and act on data closer to the source, thereby reducing costs and maintaining compliance
That’s just the beginning. As enterprises extend networks everywhere, wireless growth is exploding. Not only is it extending to new areas, but organizations have an ever-growing list of connectivity technologies to choose from. A common mistake we see enterprises make is thinking that one wireless technology will work for every automation and IoT use case. Wireless technologies are key pillars of IoT, but one size does not fit all. Organizations need a cohesive access strategy to avoid increased cost, complexity, and security risk.
When choosing an access technology, such as Wi-Fi 6, LoRaWAN, or 5G, organizations should consider:
- Devices — what devices need to connect?
- Resiliency — what are the application requirements?
- Deployment — what are the deployment scenarios?
- Technology — what are the potential technology options?
- Total cost of ownership — what are the CapEx and OpEx implications of each technology option?
How Cisco can help
At the core of operational resiliency, Cisco is enabling the evolution of IoT. Only Cisco offers all types of access technologies to meet operational needs. We provide a complete solution for secure, policy-based, high-performance connectivity into the operational domain that will scale and accommodate multi-access technologies. This includes IoT industrial routers, IE switches and wireless, Cisco Cyber Vision for industrial security, and Cisco DNA Center for network infrastructure automation and policy.
If you’d like to learn more about how to enable business resiliency through automation and digitization, watch my recorded webinar, The New Direction of IoT.