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Collaboration Is Key With IoT

For many years, members of this industry have been wary about sharing  their intellectual property with others. They believed doing so would jeopardize their competitive differentiation and business opportunities.

But in many cases remaining secretive is no longer the smartest way to do business.

Clinging to a culture of secrecy stifles innovation. And it makes companies more vulnerable to other companies – such as competitors – that openly share information with each other.

To gain competitive differentiation, serve customers more effectively, and drive higher revenues and profits, companies need to collaborate more openly and broadly by sharing more intellectual property. Explained another way, they need to shift from the “me” to the “we” economy, as Accenture asserted in its Tech Vision 2015 report.

In this “we” economy, companies should combine their industry expertise with the power of digital technology to reshape their markets. They need to realize that digital connections are not limited to their employees and customers, that they can link themselves into a global network of businesses, individuals and things from around the world – a digital “ecosystem.”

Industrial Internet of Things Driving Need To Share More

A major reason why more sharing is needed in today’s “we” economy is the rapid growth in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Internet of Things (IoT) markets. Respectively, they target business and consumer applications. Each embodies the convergence of intelligent products, processes and services that communicate with each other, and with people, over global networks. And each adds a layer of intelligence and functions to a panoply of everyday items such as smartphones, home thermostats and wearable fitness monitors.

Individually, no one company produces all the pieces of the IIoT/IoT ecosystem such as devices, sensors, data, services, applications, networks and more.  But consider this potential collaboration opportunity: A company that manufactures smartphones aligns with one that makes smart thermostats. The companies need to work together to synchronize and share data collected between the devices. When they do, they expand revenue-generating opportunities for each of them. More data sharing spawns sharper product and customer insights. Their devices, protocols and intellectual property need to be shared enough so these new types of integrated, data-sharing devices can be produced.

Lack Of Sharing Stifles Innovation

The best innovations occur when more people participate and focus on solving a problem together. Compared with the collective wisdom of a broad range of companies, a single company tends to be narrow in its insights and perspectives. In the fast-moving IIoT and IoT markets, there are too many issues for one company to wrestle with by itself.

What To Share

Companies need to be shrewd and selective about what they share and with whom. With their core trusted business partners they should be more open than ever. They need to be more selective, however, about information they distribute to companies with whom they have not worked. Still, in both cases more sharing is essential to spark co-innovation.

Companies should open up more, for example, about new products in their pipelines, including new features and functions. In doing so, they can synchronize their research and development with the rest of the ecosystem.

If a company believes it has a breakthrough product, information about it should be kept secret. If it’s not a breakthrough, yet still differentiated in the market, companies should be careful in what they share. But even in this case, they should share more data.

How To Enable Collaboration

Product launches need to be synchronized across ecosystem business partners. However, beyond alignment there needs to be cross-company input. Cooperative product road-mapping should occur whereby each company should be informed about future products and influence each other’s designs. The result will be better products that deliver enhanced customer experiences.

Building on this, collaboration tools such as web portals should be used to allow road-mapping input to be shared among several companies. Tools ensure everyone converges on the “same page,” meaning the data is consistent and easily understood. In addition, product lifecycle management is a useful technology enabler for structuring research and development projects; it ensures a product gains support through conception, invention and manufacturing. Also, by using analytics tools companies that share more information can generate more valuable and actionable insights.

Challenges With Data Security

As companies collaborate more, they need to address a major challenge: security. Each company must trust one another to protect proprietary product and personal customer data.

Because a single vulnerability can bring the entire ecosystem down, security should be embedded throughout the ecosystem. Tests need to be performed to ensure protocols are not cumbersome. And employees involved should receive training on how to use them.

It’s important for trust to be established across the ecosystem. Correct frameworks and protocols should be introduced to help companies use the right data integrity and device security.

Few IIoT/IoT Assets Have Adequate Security

The truth is that few assets have been designed with adequate security, and many business leaders are unaware of this. The result is that many companies are expecting to run high-integrity applications on what they don’t realize are low-integrity environments.

To overcome this, they should provide frameworks and models to support the business goals and objectives while protecting privacy, mission-critical assets and services, and giving other businesses insights they need.

In the digital business era, in most cases no single party is going to be responsible for security end to end. It will require an abundance of collaboration, sharing and trust. And all this must be underpinned by clear governance and innovative approaches to intelligence and security.

Final Thoughts

As companies open up more to each other, there will be corporate culture challenges. But to thrive in today’s market, these cultures need to change. In a market with a multitude of moving parts, applications, services, devices, connectives and networks, companies need to collaborate more, share more, and risk more.

Sami Luukkonen is the global managing director of the Electronics & High Tech industry group at Accenture, the international consulting and services company. He can be reached at [email protected].