How to Make Remote Connectivity Scalable from Day 1

It’s 2016, so we’ve all known for a very long time that we need to remotely connect to our products to realize improvements for both our customers and service providers.

Heck, we now even have connected avocado trees that are yielding their farmers 75% cost cuts.

Since an avalanche of IoT devices are storming the world, I talked about why it’s time to rethink the technology we use to connect to our products out in the field in my previous post Stop Using a VPN to Connect to Your Products.

“Remote monitoring is a common solution to lack of efficiency, allowing control engineers to access machine-to-machine data without limits of physical location. Although remote monitoring is not a new or emerging technology, the proliferation of two major technology trends—IoT and big data—has enabled new heights of remote monitoring capabilities for manufacturing.”-Control Engineering

With the explosion of connected-device opportunities, many companies are rushing solutions to market…and making common mistakes that will bite…big time…when it comes time to scale.

And no one likes celebrating the success of growth only to find unexpected costs tear apart that handsome margin.

So we must address this challenge, as PostScapes puts it: “How will we discover, identify, and interact with the objects and devices in our lives in a seamless way?”

With that in mind, let’s dive into how automation and business rules are key from day 1.

Identify Your Remotely-Connected Products…Before You Need To

If your company is deploying numerous products out in the field at multiple customer locations, the question becomes…which is which?

If you don’t know that answer when it comes time to service your device, many of your efficiencies get blown out the door. The support services team spends time tracking down the right data and information. This hacks down “time to resolution” benefits and throws customers satisfaction out the door.

I know this situation all too well. Having managed the engineers responsible for remotely working with implementation teams to manually register remotely-connected products, we struggled with this day-to-day. We also dealt with unexpected issues that came from physical and network changes which were all too often uncovered in a reactive, emergency situation. As much as we’d like to think our customers and service partners would proactively notify about changes, it just didn’t happen much.

Indeed, manually registering products isn’t a scalable solution. It requires coordination from many different parties…many of whom often don’t care or know enough to do it in the first place. It requires skilled labor, and much more of it than you might expect. It grows in expense faster than you grow.

This was the case regardless of the technology used…modem, IPSec VPN, SSL VPN, or the myriad of other solutions available.

Registering Remotely-Monitored Devices Manually

Remember the days of “mail in a registration card.” Have we evolved significantly in knowing how our products are deployed?

Businesses have always needed to know where their products are, what customers have them, and how to service them efficiently. Now, with Big Data, we have endless reasons to positively know where our products are, how to connect to them, and what the details of their environment and interactions are. It’s vastly important to our business success and differentiation.

Many companies rely on a product implementation team to input codes, communicate back to the service provider(s), and manually register each and every component.

If you deploy a new server, is someone out there onsite registering? Or is it registering itself and associating with customer records automatically?

And what happens if you move that server?

Or worse…is the product even synced with broader customer data and business processes at all?

“Critical machinery once deployed on the field, is expected to work with minimal failures, while delivering high performance and reliability. In typical remote monitoring and industrial automation scenarios, although many physical objects from machinery to equipment may already be ‘smart and connected,’ they are typically operated in a standalone fashion and not integrated into existing business processes.” – Oracle Blog

Last, are manual processes scalable? What if your product takes off? What if you land a huge new client? What happens to your growth plan if you have large human-putty requirements?

The Challenge to Onboard Your Products with Automation and Business Rules

If your company is expanding or maturing the way you remotely interact with your products, think scalable from the start.

With proliferation of connected devices comes a proliferation of tasks…the question is whether you start with the technology to automate those tasks or not.

Questions to ask of your remote connectivity and monitoring solution BEFORE you get big:

  1. Do my products get uniquely identified to a customer record as they are shipped?
  2. Once that device is up and connected, does it automatically “call home” and register itself to the customer record?
  3. Does that device pulse back on a regular basis to say “I’m still here?”
  4. Do technicians have green light/red light clarity into whether or not the device is actively connected?
  5. Are there business rules and automation in place in case the device stops pulsing home?
  6. If a network or geo-physical change is detected, are business rules and automation in place?

Automation and Business Rules for Efficiency and Customer Delight

As you can see by the list above, building scalability into your remote connectivity and monitoring solution from day 1 not only allows you to realize massive internal efficiency, but it also does what we all know will help us win as a company: it delights our customers.

We know our customers better…

We keep clean records…

We can ensure their products are running optimally and proactively service…

We can service with no delay…

Indeed, killer remote connectivity and monitoring is a key differentiatior and the future of big enterprise products, small busienss products, transportion, industrial products, personal devices, and yes…avocados.

Next Step: Explore Options with Your Platforms

AWS IoT registration with opportunity for automation: https://docs.aws.amazon.com/iot/latest/developerguide/thing-registry.html

IBM Watson IoT registration: https://developer.ibm.com/recipes/tutorials/how-to-register-devices-in-ibm-iot-foundation/

Microsoft IoT Core hub registration: https://blogs.windows.com/buildingapps/2015/12/09/windows-iot-core-and-azure-iot-hub-putting-the-i-in-iot/

PostScapes has an excellent resource on device discovery: https://postscapes.com/iot-device-discovery

  • Dive into different connection models, including Bluetooth, WiFi, Physical Web
  • Get up to speed on applicable protocols and resources, including SSDP, uPnP, Consol, IoTivity, FiWare, XMPP, Pino, and Alljoyn

 

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Endpoint Detection and Response
With the growing number of endpoints being used in businesses, IT teams can struggle to detect breaches and react to them in a timely manner. EDR tools record endpoint and network events, and combine them with IOCs, behavior analytics and machine-learning techniques.

What are your scalability challenges with remote connectivity and monitoring?

Let me know in the comments below!

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