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Mobility and the Internet of Things

Mark Sunday

Mark Sunday, CIO of Oracle Corporation, interviewed Suhas Uliyar, Vice President of Mobile Strategy Product Management at Oracle, to discuss how mobile computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) enable new types of transformative applications and business models.


Mark Sunday: In our last conversation we discussed the many dimensions of a mobile-first strategy. Let's take a closer look at how the Internet of Things is impacting mobility.

Suhas Uliyar: When you say "mobile computing," most people think of smartphones and tablets. But there is a much broader category of mobile devices within the Internet of Things. There are billions of intelligent endpoints connected via cellular, Wi-Fi, barcode scanners, and other types of network communications. Some of these devices include new types of user interfaces, such as smart watches and virtual reality glasses. Others are simple machine sensors, motion sensors, RFID tags, video cameras, and other intelligent endpoints that record events or gather data. Today's cars are the ultimate mobile device with full displays and sensors that track everything from inside the car to the environment near and outside the car.

Mark Sunday: How can CIOs maximize the opportunities available with mobility?

Suhas Uliyar: Smartphones and tablets not only provide mobile access to data and applications but, increasingly, they are enabling a whole new set of transformational capabilities. For example, I use a mobile banking app to review transactions, transfer funds between accounts, and so forth. All this is great, but if my bank were really smart, they would use this app to inform me about special programs and offers, things that would entice me to execute more transactions with the bank.

The hospitality industry offers another good example. I can use a mobile app to book a room or check out of a hotel. But if I'm arriving with my family, the hotel might suggest additional amenities. For example, we might want to book a pool cabana or take a tour, making our stay more pleasant and driving revenue opportunities for the hotel.

As an enterprise, you have to think about how to build the app, how to integrate the app, how to secure the app…but that's just the start. How do you deploy the app to thousands of users? How do you support those users? And, finally, how do you create a mobile strategy that is transformative for the business?

Mark Sunday: How do these trends impact enterprise computing?

Suhas Uliyar: Many transformative applications are emerging to pull these devices into the enterprise process flow. Consuming data and being able to act upon events and alerts from these devices will become progressively more important. On one level it is an extension of the BYOD phenomenon: The enterprise is challenged with building an application once and running it across a huge spectrum of devices within the Internet of Things, not just the various flavors of Android and iOS, not just smartphones and tablets, but also new types of devices and interfaces that are starting to emerge.

Mark Sunday: Can you give us some industry examples?

Suhas Uliyar: We are seeing a classic convergence of mobile, IoT, cloud, and big data analytics in healthcare. Doctors can remotely access patient information from sensors that monitor vital signs. There is a correlation with big data since you can analyze data from thousands of patients and correlate that data with information about treatments and outcomes. Meanwhile, healthcare practitioners can interact with each other, and with their patients, via video conferencing. All this can be done through wireless communications leveraging location-based services.

Another emerging area is augmented reality (AR) with new user interfaces such as Google Glass. For example, instead of lugging around a laptop to look at mechanical schematics of wiring and pipes, a technician might view a 3-D rendition of the mechanicals through a Google Glass interface via AR and using voice as an input mechanism to enter data, which is converted into structured or unstructured data in the back end.

In the utility industry, smart grids and smart meters can be part of an intelligent network that helps people consume energy much more efficiently, with incentives and rebates for cutting back during peak periods. This is another great example of a transformative business application and model that utilizes mobile, IoT, cloud, and big data analytics.

Mark Sunday: What are some of the transformative mobile apps that use global positioning system (GPS) technology?

Suhas Uliyar: Enterprises can use location-aware devices to track the movements of thousands of people and things. For example, transportation companies can gather data from planes, trucks, and carriers to optimize routes, maximize truckloads, and streamline dispatch activities. Heavy equipment manufacturers can embed sensors in their equipment to predict maintenance issues and track performance. Integrating that data with a field service process helps technicians know when to replace parts to avoid failures and breakdowns.

Mark Sunday: How is IoT fueling new types of collaboration among the workforce? How does it enable business processes that you simply couldn't have done with a more tethered approach?

Suhas Uliyar: Consider field service again. A technician often doesn't know what parts he needs until he is onsite and has diagnosed the problem. If a part doesn't happen to be on his truck, he might have to go back to the warehouse or call in an order for that part, which causes delays for the customer. However, by sharing information with other technicians, a location-aware inventory system can instantly tell him that another technician just 3 miles away has the part he needs on his truck. Converging with that person can save time and improve customer service.

A distributor can use similar technology to optimize merchandising tactics by monitoring which configurations of food and beverages sell well in various locations. This can inform real-time inventory shifts. Maybe a display is not configured correctly or a store isn't running the right promotional campaigns or discounts. Sharing data makes the entire chain more profitable.

Mark Sunday: Today's mobile devices contain identity information and they always know our locations. How can businesses leverage these capabilities to deliver valuable services?

Suhas Uliyar: We've already discussed a few industry-specific business examples. There are many others that relate to selling products and services. A good portion of today's consumers are not only happy to tell you where they are, but also what they are doing. Status updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social networks can combine location information with an individual's likes and dislikes. This opens up a huge category of possibilities for segmentation and targeting within retail, travel, and hospitality. In the retail industry, having an "omni-channel" strategy is a must since consumers use a variety of different devices based on their location and convenience. For example, you could be browsing for an item on your iPad at home. As you leave home with your smartphone, you receive an offer for that same item. As you get close to the store or in the store, you receive a notice that the item is in stock. This type of targeting strategy is transformative for the consumer and the retail enterprise.

Mark Sunday: What are the associated privacy issues for today's enterprises?

Suhas Uliyar: Privacy comes down to ensuring the security of content and data for the business. It also involves some trade-offs. For example, if you want to use Google Maps, then Google knows exactly where you have been and where you are going. I'm willing to accept that fact because I want to use the app. The issue is, as a business, how do you make sure that enterprise content is secure? How do you make sure that you are giving information to the people who are authorized to have that information? How do you make sure that when employees leave the company you can wipe sensitive content without impacting their personal data? You discussed some of these issues in your interview with Amit Jasuja. Suffice to say, IT continually walks this tightrope of maintaining control without adversely impacting the user experience or compromising privacy.

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