Wearable IoT Devices in BPM Applications

IoT isn’t just around the corner, it’s here. Wearable devices are quickly creeping into business applications in a swath of industries. In January 2016, Fujitsu released ten wearable devices including location badges and vital sign sensing bands, intended for a wide variety of uses in customer products and services. The lesser known Bittium, offers smartwatches that improve security and service quality for the Retail market. TechRepublic predicted that 2016 would be a transition year for IoT and wearable devices, quoting John Haggard, CEO of Nymi:

“2016 is gearing up to be another transitional year for wearables. In 2014, we saw the introduction of several new wearable technologies and form factors to the market, led by fitness trackers. This past year, we’ve experienced the broader commercialization of many fitness trackers and smartwatches, with adoption rapidly climbing. 2015 was the year where companies started talking about having a wearables strategy which indicates that wearable tech is here to stay.”

The article went on to predict that smartglasses would continue to dominate the wearable field over smartwatches, citing several pieces of evidence.

Common

Whatever the case, the IoT Trend in business is clear – IoT is becoming part of key business processes, and its rise will continue.

How then, should this affect your BPM (Business Process Management) strategy? Is it time to integrate IoT devices with your operations and process applications?

The answer, naturally, is it depends on your field, but generally, most fields should begin to consider adding IoT.

If you’re managing a call center application, where all teams are constantly on-premises, then IoT devices may not enter into your calculations just yet (although even in this case, a few years down the line, we may see some penetration).

But if your teams are in the field, such as in industries such as Energy, Manufacturing, Travel, Medicine or Defense, then it’s probably time to factor in IoT as part of your BPM strategy.

Example Applications

Here are some examples of how IoT can take part in business processes:

  • 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. Such glasses could take photographs of a situation area, and send these along to a situation room process.
  • Medical personnel can attach bio-monitoring devices (pulse, blood pressure, blood sugar monitors) to patients which kick of processes when vital signs exceed normal levels (see our Case Study on this topic).
  • Travel – a scenario Gartner has quoted, whereby a flight cancellation kicks off a process that updates the traveler’s cellphone, hotel key (IoT device), hotel desk personnel and rental car.

What Integration Options are Possible?

GlassesHow can IoT devices be integrated smoothly with business workflows? This is only a challenge since the technology is relatively new, and standards are still developing. In general, the method is for the devices to send data collected (and alerts or notifications) over a cellular or WiFi network to a centralized database. The BPM software can monitor this database for changes, and processes can automatically be kicked off or resumed when such changes occur. There are other methods, such as sending direct emails from the devices over the internet, or integrating with cellular apps, but the first one mentioned may be the most relevant for most applications. Protocols can vary, but common ones include Bluetooth, NFC, WiFi on the device end, and then Web Services, WCF, SOAP and OData on the BPM end. Cora SeQuence enables integration with such popular protocols, and we already have an impressive record with IoT device-BPM integration (contact us to discuss BPM and IoT for your application).

Why is BPM and IoT So Exciting?

The reason BPM technology is such a good fit for IoT business applications, is that BPM is an extremely time sensitive and responsible technology, which facilitates time-sensitive, 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, making it a great match for wearable technology advances.

Finally, BPM systems can provide the perfect complement for IoT devices, since each fill in the other’s gaps. IoT devices excel at sensing, alerting, augmenting reality, and generally interacting fluidly with the wearer, but are somewhat lacking in the system integration, data processing and process logic areas. These are the areas where BPM excels, and can fill in the IoT device’s technological gaps. BPM can connect IoT devices to the rest of the organization’s people and systems.

In the future, as hardware becomes increasingly compact, we may see BPM systems integrated directly within IoT devices, effectively becoming “on-board BPM”. This all-in-one type system would certain provide employees with great flexibility and power.

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Attribution: By Glogger – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24851948

A Word to the Wise

As Gartner has noted repeatedly, the pace of Change is increasing. Technology is proliferating and is seeping into everything we do (business or not). The great challenge of the Digital Transformation age is to harness this technology and adjust to Change in a way that maximizes business outcomes and improves quality of service, and ultimately, quality of life. But, in this sea of Change and excitement, we must not lose ourselves. Just as BPM puts the human in the center, so we must continue to give time for human thought and decision making. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by technology. This should not replace time for thinking, discussion with peers and stepping back to look at the broader picture. It is these elements, which define us as humans, which we cannot afford to lose. Armed with our unique human insight and capacity for teamwork, we can form a balance and partnership with technology, that will enables us to surpass our limits.

Contact us for a consultation on how to implement IoT processes for your business:

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Photo credits above: CC Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Documentation License.