We know that SAP has been focused on the behavior of mobile devices for many years. The company’s acquisition of Sybase and integration of its product base was primarily a way to improve the mobile IQ within the SAP stack.

It’s also no secret that the SAP Leonardo design-thinking-led approach initially began its life as an Internet of Things (IoT) platform aligned to bring the information streams from devices into SAP’s well-known analytics engines.

So, what could be on the road ahead for SAP’s IoT development?

A Logical Expansion into the IoT World

We also know that SAP set aside an estimated $2 billion fund for IoT investment and acquisitions back in 2016. Many would argue that the company’s track record in enterprise resource planning (ERP) sets it up to be a logical player in the world of IoT solutions.

Devices, sensors, and other connected instruments are now distributed throughout businesses in a variety of industries. The “resources” in a modern ERP system now include IoT units and IoT-connected engineering entities. Bringing the data from this sector of business into SAP HANA via SAP Leonardo has been a long-term goal for the firm since 2010.

Where the Interconnected “Things” Are

The elements connected within the Internet of Things are parts, materials, and large-scale assets that might normally be classed as units of engineering. Basically, everything from a washer and a nut all the way up to elevators, mining equipment, or industrial turbines.

President of SAP’s Global IoT & Digital Supply Chain Dr. Tanja Rueckert has spoken of what she called “blurred industry borders” between business networks and the companies that operate them. She has said that firms must now work to know where their “things” are at any point in time so they can perform remote inspections and run predictive analytics, among other functions.

The IoT Holy Grail

Dr. Rueckert says that the IoT Holy Grail is the point where organizations start to build new business management channels based on the information flowing from their IoT. When they do this, it will be possible to start creating service-based networks that are autonomous and intelligently managed. That autonomy will come from layered-on technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain, all connected through an IoT backbone creating digital twins to model the physical equipment.

SAP offers SAP Leonardo IoT Bridge as a route to identifying potential threats and business opportunities across a firm by bringing IoT data into business context. It helps spot process abnormalities or deviations and assesses their operational and business impact through a view of real-time data.

Brewing IoT Beverages

As a working example of these technologies in action, Essen, Germany-headquartered RealCore took on an internal IoT research project to highlight where SAP Cloud Platform could fit. RealCore is a software provider and consulting business that serves clients in the energy, logistics, and retail industries.

RealCore initially chose to use SAP Cloud Platform for a fun experiment: to develop an IoT-based flavored-beverage machine for its own employees. “Here at the office, no one knew the current fill level of our beverage machine,” said Markus Brasch, head of business development at RealCore Group. “We never knew if it had enough Coke or water, and that caused some trouble for our hard-working developers.”

The RealCore team started an IoT research project to calculate the consumption level per product, while integrating this information using SAP Cloud Platform. Today, their beverage machine is fully functional and features a graphic display and barcode that shows the current fill level. The team plans to present this example as a showcase to customers in the beverage industry, including how you can combine it with an automated and integrated ERP system.

Getting IoT Learnings on the Shelf

RealCore took what it learned from its soda-fountain experiment and used it to create SAP Cloud Platform-based smart electronic shelf labels for the retail industry. These labels display data from SAP ERP together with data from external sources, including real-time prices and customer evaluations from Amazon. “This type of offering is key for the retail industry,” added Brasch. “You cannot hide from online competitors like Amazon. And with customers being able to check online for the best ratings and prices, you need to show that you offer well-rated products at a fair price—with direct store availability and on-site consulting.”

The IoT road ahead makes it possible to improve operational efficiency, workforce productivity, and, ultimately, customer experiences. New business models and new revenue streams can open up if firms have the vision and start to experiment with IoT in their operations—even in the solutions they offer their own customers.

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