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IoT and BPM: A Match Made for the Modern Business

  • Gal Horvitz
  • September 30 2016, 6:30am EDT

From fitness trackers to smart thermostats, IoT devices have made our everyday lives easier by tracking and using data and information about the way we interact with the human world. IoT has been gradually picking up steam in the business world as well.

For example, UPS uses IoT sensors on its delivery trucks to collect data on drivers’ routes, delivery efficiency and truck performance. Disney World also employs IoT in its wearable “MagicBand” wristband, which not only allows guests to get on rides quickly, but also uses RFID tags to collect data and track their activities in the park.

While businesses are beginning to adopt IoT technologies, something is still missing. How can companies integrate IoT devices with mission-critical business processes to drive positive results? That’s where business process management (BPM) comes in.

In recent years, BPM solutions have become the leading technology for fast, enterprise-changing systems that optimize and streamline workflows for organizations across an array of industries. Why Combine IoT and BPM?

The reason BPM is such a good fit for IoT business applications is that BPM is an extremely time-sensitive and responsive technology, which facilitates time-critical, dynamic business processes. Such processes can take advantage of the real-time nature of data coming out of and going back into IoT devices.

Also, BPM systems tend to be very human-centric, as are many IoT devices, especially wearable devices such as smartglasses, smartwatches, bands, tags and sensors. BPM has never ignored the human element in the business process, putting the person in the center of decision making and action. This makes it a great match for wearable technology advances.

Finally, while IoT devices excel at sensing, alerting, augmenting reality and generally interacting fluidly with the wearer, they are somewhat lacking in the system integration, data processing and process logic areas.

These are the areas where BPM excels. BPM can fill in the IoT device’s technological gaps and connect IoT devices to the rest of the organization’s people and systems.

How Does the Integration Between IoT and BPM Work?

In general, the method is for IoT devices to send data collected (and alerts or notifications) over a cellular or Wi-Fi network to a centralized database. The BPM software can monitor this database for changes. When a change is detected, the BPM software will start a process to initiate an optimal response. For instance, it may surface important data to key personnel that will enable them to make well-informed decisions for the best course of action.

The integration between IoT and BPM is especially beneficial for responding to “Business Moments” – disruptive, sometimes unpredictable changes that occur during short windows of time within a business ecosystem. An example of a Business Moment could be an opportune real estate deal or a drastic change in a stock or currency. Business Moments can have either damaging or positive effects on the business. With real-time IoT data and streamlined workflows, companies can quickly identify and handle these moments in the optimal manner.

What are Some Business Applications of IoT and BPM?

As IoT technology enters the business arena, companies with staff out in the field should be the first to consider integrating IoT devices with their operations and processes.

Here are examples of how IoT can take part in business processes across various industries:

  • • Energy/Utility provider field agents who carry sensors and detectors. Such devices can be integrated with business processes such as safety checks and client provisioning.
  • • Defense/Security operatives with smartglasses. Glasses can take photographs of a situation area, and send these along to a situation room to process.
  • • Medical personnel with internet-connected bio-monitoring devices (pulse, blood pressure or blood sugar monitors) on their patients. When vital signs exceed normal levels, a notification is instantly transmitted to doctors, who can then review the data, treat conditions and respond quickly to warning signs.
  • • Traveler whose flight has been cancelled. The flight cancellation triggers a process that sends an alert to the traveler’s cellphone and updates the hotel desk personnel and rental car company of their customer’s later arrival.

Today, businesses can also improve case management and work optimization through the integration of IoT data and BPM platforms. For case management, case handlers can use BPM software to retrieve data from connected IoT devices and assemble them for a clear picture of the case at hand to intelligently proceed forward to the best possible resolution.
For work optimization, operations managers can leverage IoT data and assign case work to teams and users with predictive analytics. The BPM platform will show them the impact of their allocation decisions in real time, automate some of the allocation according to logical rules and provide suggestions for allocations. Intelligent work allocation optimizes the business outcomes of teams, reduces costs, improves service-level agreement (SLA) compliance and improves quality of service.

What Does This Mean for the Future?

Technology is proliferating and seeping into everything we do (business or not). The great challenge now is to harness this technology and adjust to today’s rapid-rate of change in a way that maximizes business outcomes and improves quality of service. The integration between IoT devices and BPM presents a viable solution with a bright future – one which will connect people, things and systems together as part of business-critical processes.

(About the author: Gal Horvitz is chief executive officer at PNMsoft)

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