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Enterprise Architecture for the Internet of Things

by Bunny Tharpe       • October 13, 2016

There’s a tipping point with any new concept. The point where an idea surpasses being just a ‘fad’, or another ‘buzzword’ and becomes rooted within a culture or society.

With the estimated number of connected devices at 5 billion, and is projected to grow to over 30 billion by 2020, the Internet of Things has already surpassed its tipping point and is clearly here to stay.

The leading analysts have championed IoT for a while, with Mike Walker (Gartner analyst) indicating its impression on industries would be great, saying that, “Organizations must understand the profound impact new sources of information will have.”

Yet, even considering the already colossal figures, the backgrounded nature of the Internet of Things means it isn’t yet a household term. Between the traditional smartphones, tablets, computers, and less traditional thermostats, smart bulbs, and other devices, most consumers are invested into the Internet of Things without actively acknowledging it.

It’s possible that businesses have struggled to make the most out of IoT for similar reasons.

It’s fundamentally unobtrusive nature has left some businesses slow to adopt the strategy as it’s value isn’t necessarily obvious. However, those with insider knowledge understand its potential – especially when paired with big data.

Current estimates infer IoT will add between $10 trillion and $15 trillion to the global GDP, as businesses benefit from more and more smart devices, increasing the density of connections between people, devices and interconnectivity between the two. Essentially, every new connection is a new selling, or data mining opportunity.

That said, as with big data, IoT can be a meaningless endeavor without the proper strategy in place to capitalize on it, and the starting point for that strategy, should be Enterprise Architecture.

Enterprise architecture

Enterprise Architecture in IoT

Enterprise architecture can help businesses get more out of IoT.

Although the IoT refers to connected devices, in practice, the information from the devices in question is actually siloed. Although still of use to business, this siloed and fragmented information doesn’t provide the level of insight needed to justify heavy resource investment in an IoT strategy.

To really make the most out of IoT, the connections between the devices must be uncovered, and the walls separating them brought down.

This is where Enterprise Architecture comes into play. EA can leverage the interconnectivity of smart devices, grouping them together to measure certain data, or to form new business models and uses. Mike Walker labeled this the shift from thinking of IoT, ‘things’ to ‘compositions’.

Enterprise Architecture can also help identify which parts of the data are most relevant, in order for an organization to make better informed opinions.

On this, Mike Walker said: “In establishing a business competency centre, enterprise architects need to determine the potential impact, both positive and negative, of IoT technologies and then create actionable deliverables that can define which business opportunities should be pursued as result.”

Without proper structure, the sheer quantity of data that IoT can produce can be overwhelming, and the most useful information can be lost in the cluster.

All this considered, as the number of connected devices climbs, Enterprise Architecture and architect’s will find new life breathed into the discipline, as businesses look to leverage the services to guide their IoT strategies.

“Enterprise architects have a great opportunity to position themselves at the heart of digital businesses,” said, Mike Walker. “This could take the form of establishing a business competency centre that explores how the IoT can create innovative breakthroughs for the organization’s business models, products and services through rapid experimentation.”

He went on to say, “Enterprise architects are best positioned to discuss and enable the most lucrative opportunities in partnership with business unit and IT leaders. At the same time, they must work with chief data officers and security officers to structure this data in a way that mitigates the worst risks of pursuing these opportunities.”

The Definitive Guide to Enterprise Architecture - EA for IoT

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