Everyone is currently talking about the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is changing the business world forever. Gartner forecasts that there will be around 30 billion connected devices by 2020. There are different definitions of exactly what the Internet of Things is. SAP's understanding focuses on physical objects that are equipped with integrated technological components (“embedded” technology) such as microcontrollers. Using sensors, these objects are able to measure parameters such as pressure or temperature and collect data. With the help of actuators, the physical objects finally trigger certain actions.
What is the added value of the Internet of Things?
What is actually new about the Internet of Things is the exchange of collected data on the basis of cloud technologies and suitable infrastructures. For example, it can take place directly between two production machines. Or the data is sent to a central backend.
The purpose of the Internet of Things is to improve all areas of life, both private and business. But how does the IoT become a real added value? Since the physical object is equipped with technology, it not only performs its actual function locally, but also enables an IT-based service that takes place in a digital ecosystem and is globally scalable.
The SAP IoT Portfolio
To implement IoT scenarios, SAP has various components in its portfolio. The SAP Cloud Platform plays a central role here. Technology platforms are the preferred infrastructure for driving innovation. The providers of such platform-based ecosystems benefit from their enormous flexibility.
In this context, the term “two-speed IT” is frequently used. This means that companies rely on a stable IT core to support their business processes and steer their organization. On the other hand, IT should also give a company a competitive edge by driving innovation and improving products as quickly as possible. This is where the SAP Cloud Platform comes into play, which also ensures seamless integration into the SAP backend.
SAP Cloud Platform
The SAP Cloud Platform is designed as an open platform as a service. It is used to scale and integrate on-premise applications, develop completely new applications in the cloud and roll them out to customers or employees on a web-based basis. The SAP Cloud Platform includes comprehensive application and database services such as the HANA in-memory database. With regard to the SAP Cloud Platform, SAP speaks of the foundation for the intelligent, sustainable company.
In terms of infrastructure, the SAP Cloud Platform runs on SAP’s own data centers as well as on scalable cloud environments (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform). The open-source cloud foundry is the operating system of the SAP Cloud Platform and includes various programming languages and ready-made services. Innovative technologies such as the Internet of Things, Blockchain and Machine Learning are combined in the digital innovation portfolio SAP Leonardo, which currently represents the largest area of development within the SAP Cloud Platform.
The Internet of Things in practice
The connected physical objects send their data to the IoT solutions in the SAP Cloud Platform. The Leonardo IoT Foundation consists of technical services and business services. The technical services are needed to establish connectivity between the device and the cloud and to manage the device. The business services are used to build IoT applications, such as a digital twin. Various data technologies are available for data management.
An alternative to direct communication between device and cloud is to interpose the Leonardo IoT Edge software component. It collects IoT data locally in its own network, analyzes it and usually sends only a subset to the cloud. The Leonardo IoT applications then come into play: with the collected data, you can build your own IoT apps and make them available to the different departments of your company. Business systems such as ERP, master data or transaction data can also be integrated into IoT applications via the Integration Services of the SAP Cloud Platform.
Conclusion and outlook
The SAP Cloud Platform makes it possible to realize innovative digital processes and business models. The complete infrastructure can also be integrated end-to-end into the ERP backend. The IoT portfolio includes technical and business components to create connectivity and build apps. With SAP Services, initial prototypes can be built without programming knowledge.
SAP is constantly developing IoT services further: New adapters and protocols as well as better APIs are regularly added. In addition, integration scenarios are implemented in more and more IT systems. Key technologies such as machine learning are also increasingly finding their way into the IoT portfolio in order to be able to work efficiently with the collected data on the Internet of Things.