IoT and ERP is a powerful combination that gives African SMEs the agility to enter large supply chains and compete head-on with the big guys, says DEIRDRE FRYER, Product Manager for Africa at SYSPRO Africa.
Stop for just a minute and take a look at your office printer. It may not be particularly exciting – like any other printer, it likely tracks the amount of paper you are using and alerts you when your cartridges are low. But what if that printer could be linked to your ERP system? What if it could tell you when it needs to be serviced, and provide you with accurate information around its lifespan so that you would know exactly when it’s beginning to cost more money than its worth?
And your printer is just one everyday item with IoT capabilities. Imagine the possibilities of being able to feed information from an entire network of assets into the ERP.
We all want to be more agile
As we already know a good ERP system essentially allows you to take all your vital data across business units and divisions, and integrate it seamlessly to view real-time information and make better informed business decisions. So naturally if you were able to feed the wealth of unstructured data from all of the smart devices in your business, and integrate that information with the existing structured data in your ERP, you could leverage it to provide extremely valuable insights. Whether you want to up your game in customer service, forecasting or inventory management, integrating the IoT into your ERP can help you make infinitely better business decisions. You’ll also be able to gain these insights more quickly, allowing you to rapidly adapt to changing consumer and business requirements, and extend your business model accordingly. The end result? Far greater flexibility that enables you to compete in large supply chains with much bigger players.
So what’s holding us back?
While it’s fair to say we are starting to see local businesses begin to harness the power of IoT in their ERP solutions, many companies are still constrained by the complexities involved in integrating all of their systems. And, of course, another big part of the reason why many businesses are holding off on IoT, is the concern around security. Because the very nature of the IoT entails the collection of personal information, a breach in IoT security could quite literally put people at serious risk. Hacking has also become a great deal more prevalent in recent years and when it comes to IoT specifically, it means you suddenly need to secure devices which previously you didn’t have to worry about because they were in isolation. Your protocols and security need to be a lot stronger so that your business isn’t put in a position where hackers can access your entire network via an IoT connection.
Start with a simple question
So how can you overcome these challenges and start leveraging IoT in your ERP?
It’s essential that you start by asking yourself what your objectives are. You need to know what your return on investment will be and what benefits you can expect. Perhaps most importantly, ask yourself what kind of insights you are hoping to achieve, and whether you are likely to develop those insights based on the IoT strategy you plan to put in place.
Ultimately you need to then base your entire strategy around those insights you want to achieve. Your ERP software also forms an important part of your ability to leverage IoT. As such you’ll want to make sure that your ERP system has an integration layer and protocols that enable the sharing of information and communication between solutions and devices. It’s also important that you partner with an ERP solutions provider which recognises IoT as a natural evolution of its strategy. There’s little doubt that IoT is the future when it comes to the way businesses communicate and connect their information.
The right systems can remove the complexity
This is exactly why SYSPRO is currently developing its platform to make it easier for companies to connect their ERP systems with IoT devices. Ultimately, we want to remove the complexity involved in this process, and make it simpler and less expensive for businesses to achieve their IoT goals. Indeed, as ERP platforms evolve and make it simpler to connect various systems across the business, we will likely see a significant pickup in the number of local companies merging IoT and ERP over the next two to three years. And for good reason. The internet of things is already all around us – perhaps even more so than we might think – and by tapping into this incredible source of data, companies can fast forward their business intelligence, enabling them to punch high above their weight. So stop thinking of your printer as just a printer and start asking how IoT can benefit your business. A world of invaluable insight awaits.
Bring your network with you
At last week’s Critical Communications World, Motorola unveiled the LXN 500 LTE Ultra Portable Network Infrastructure. It allows rescue personal to set up dedicated LTE networks for communication in an emergency, writes SEAN BACHER.
In the event of an emergency, communications are absolutely critical, but the availability of public phone networks are limited due to weather conditions or congestion.
Motorola realised that this caused a problem when trying to get rescue personnel to those in need and so developed its LXN 500 LTE Ultra Portable Network Infrastructure. The product is the smallest and lightest full powered broadband network to date and allows the first person on the scene to set up an LTE network in a matter of minutes, allowing other rescue team members to communicate with each other.
“The LXN 500 weighs six kilograms and comes in a backpack with two batteries. It offers a range of 1km and allows up to 100 connections at the same time. However, in many situations the disaster area may span more than 1km which is why they can be connected to each other in a mesh formation,” says Tunde Williams, Head of Field and Solutions Marketing EMEA, Motorola Solutions.
The LXN 500 solution offers communication through two-way radios, and includes mapping, messaging, push-to-talk, video and imaging features onboard, thus eliminating the need for any additional hardware.
Data collected on the device can then be sent through to a central control room where an operator can deploy additional rescue personnel where needed. Once video is streamed into the control room, realtime analytics and augmented reality can be applied to it to help predict where future problem points may arise. Video images and other multimedia can also be made available for rescuers on the ground.
“Although the LXN 500 was designed for the seamless communications between on ground rescue teams and their respective control rooms, it has made its way into the police force and in places where there is little or no cellular signal such as oil rigs,” says Williams.
He gave a hostage scenario: “In the event of a hostage situation, it is important for the police to relay information in realtime to ensure no one is hurt. However the perpetrators often use their mobile phones to try and foil any rescue attempts. Should the police have the correct partnerships in place they are able to disable cellular towers in the vicinity, preventing any in or outgoing calls on a public network and allowing the police get their job done quickly and more effectively.”
By disabling any public networks in the area, police are also able to eliminate any cellular detonated bombs from going off but still stay in touch with each other he says.
The LXN 500 offers a wide range of mission critical cases and is sure to transform communications and improve safety for first responders and the people they are trying to protect.
Kaspersky moves to Switzerland
As part of its Global Transparency Initiative, Kaspersky Lab is adapting its infrastructure to move a number of core processes from Russia to Switzerland.
This includes customer data storage and processing for most regions, as well as software assembly, including threat detection updates. To ensure full transparency and integrity, Kaspersky Lab is arranging for this activity to be supervised by an independent third party, also based in Switzerland.
Global transparency and collaboration for an ultra-connected world
The Global Transparency Initiative, announced in October 2017, reflects Kaspersky Lab’s ongoing commitment to assuring the integrity and trustworthiness of its products. The new measures are the next steps in the development of the initiative, but they also reflect the company’s commitment to working with others to address the growing challenges of industry fragmentation and a breakdown of trust. Trust is essential in cybersecurity, and Kaspersky Lab understands that trust is not a given; it must be repeatedly earned through transparency and accountability.
The new measures comprise the move of data storage and processing for a number of regions, the relocation of software assembly and the opening of the first Transparency Center.
Relocation of customer data storage and processing
By the end of 2019, Kaspersky Lab will have established a data center in Zurich and in this facility, will store and process all information for users in Europe, North America, Singapore, Australia, Japan and South Korea, with more countries to follow. This information is shared voluntarily by users with the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) an advanced, cloud-based system that automatically processes cyberthreat-related data.
Relocation of software assembly
Kaspersky Lab will relocate to Zurich its ‘software build conveyer’ — a set of programming tools used to assemble ready to use software out of source code. Before the end of 2018, Kaspersky Lab products and threat detection rule databases (AV databases) will start to be assembled and signed with a digital signature in Switzerland, before being distributed to the endpoints of customers worldwide. The relocation will ensure that all newly assembled software can be verified by an independent organisation and show that software builds and updates received by customers match the source code provided for audit.
Establishment of the first Transparency Center
The source code of Kaspersky Lab products and software updates will be available for review by responsible stakeholders in a dedicated Transparency Center that will also be hosted in Switzerland and is expected to open this year. This approach will further show that generation after generation of Kaspersky Lab products were built and used for one purpose only: protecting the company’s customers from cyberthreats.
Independent supervision and review
Kaspersky Lab is arranging for the data storage and processing, software assembly, and source code to be independently supervised by a third party qualified to conduct technical software reviews. Since transparency and trust are becoming universal requirements across the cybersecurity industry, Kaspersky Lab supports the creation of a new, non-profit organisation to take on this responsibility, not just for the company, but for other partners and members who wish to join.