1. Peter Schooff
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  4. Thursday, 21 August 2014
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As Jim Sinur wrote in this blog:
While the Internet of Things (IoT) promises more process participation, processes are not being designed with enough awareness to step up to the coming demands.
So how do you think processes can best take advantage of the Internet of Things?
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I see three inter-related threads for process / IoT cooperation and success:

Personal Internet of Things: IoT provides customer data to drive customer satisfaction processes. Using location information, details from multiple reporting "things", and customer opt-in, a "personal process" can collect the details needed to look for patterns, offer suggestions, and make life work better. Current "things" like fitness trackers, smart phone social apps, and tags/monitors in cars, appliances, cameras, etc. provide a picture of the owners' lives. As connected personal devices become ubiquitous, we are seeing proposals and processes for leading a "monitored life." In the hands of businesses (whether a bank, retailer, social software company, or advertiser) with their own agendas, this has high value but is also potentially intrusive and creepy.

Business Internet of Things: IoT provides real-time monitoring of machines, materials, and objects that participate in a process, to ensure a process is on track and to remediate problems in materials and machines . We already see this in manufacturing, farming, supply chain, and health care, and it's moving into many other industries and workplaces. IoT can supplant (or replace!) all kinds of human monitoring and, with the proper "intelligent" BPM software, can perform troubleshooting, service scheduling, and even repairs without intervention.

Government Internet of Things: IoT provides a much more connected infrastructure for society as a whole. Security cameras, toll and parking controls, access cards, and biometrics are exploding in every major city worldwide. These make our lives easier, but they provide an almost continuous stream of information on our whereabouts and activities to government at every level. Just as we worry about providing too much information to commercial interests, we are chilled by the big brother possibilities of Government IoT. I think the next decade will see a huge debate and the beginnings of new (process-based) approaches to protecting our privacy while improving services and security.
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Kevin Parker
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Much of our life is interacting with forms (exactly what I am doing now). Much of BPMS is form filling and that is a lot about transferring information from a device into the form (blood pressure, weight of the package, current location). In the Internet of Things brings forward the possibility that mere proximity of a device will deliver up information that was once entered through the keyboard.

Recently I've been speaking about "how the nature of change is changing" and trying to posit that humans should be less concerned about the "what and when" and more engaged about "how and why". In other words systems should be as automated as possible (and no more) and humans, as far as possible, should be the decision makers (and no more).

Humans are so much better at problem solving, prioritizing and conflict resolution. Systems are great at repetitive, predictable and voluminous tasks.

If we can replace data entry with telemetry from wearable devices, autonomous drone-borne sensors and robotic trolls that are constantly scouring our big-data we can liberate our human-doings and return them to human-beings.
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Jim's original post is excellent on why what you could call "business analysis" is essential for any IoT project. I completely agree.

Especially as we move away from "questions of infrastructure", senior executives and business analysts will need to step up on process. In traditional development environments, everything moves very slowly, you could say that the business side of the house enjoys lots of "IT wait states". No longer. IoT projects can move so quickly that the business side of the house will be left flat footed if they don't plan the time to invest in process analysis. IoT is often very domain specific, and just as big data doesn't analyze itself, IoT processes won't build themselves.

Business analysts unite, you have a world to gain building the Internet of Things.
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My interpretation of Jim’s blogpost is that there is a real need to seamlessly combine various coordination techniques, e.g. template-based one and event-based one. EPN and “event dispatcher” should be understood by BPM. It is like having different gears in cars.

Also, I think, a more critical question is how can IoT best take advantages of processes? How can “interneted things” work together? coordinate themselves? pursuit a common goal? etc.

I can imagine that an “interneted thing” should be able to load a process to follow (previously known as a “contract”) and execute it.

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I see it as the typical approach of BPM proponents to jump on any bandwagon they can find ...

My perspective is that the 'Internet of Things' and BPM have absolutely nothing in common - at least where they stand today. A typical process diagram has absolutely ZERO ability to deal with the dynamics of the data patterns that an IoT might deliver. IF you need to define event handlers for all possible combinations of events that might happen then good luck and more good luck if you add yet another device and you need to change all your processes to deal with it again and again.

But yes, IF (and that is really a 'BIG IF') the process environment can deal with dynamcially adding data deliverying devices and discover their meaning and relationships from some repository and then learn the patterns that such devices might deliver and what they mean in the context of the current process situation ... and if the process can handle free collaboration for the event and let users adapt the existing processes as needed .... then MAYBE there is a sensible use for IoT in BPM. But as it stands today you can't even add dynamically data to a process unless you involve BPM and IT experts for a few weeks and go through the huge bureaucracy loop.

So it would be a lot better for BPM pundits to work with what they have now and not claim that BPM will do a lot better tomorrow with some new fad. All it proves that it isn't working as promised today.
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I may in the past in this Forum have quoted Nobel laureate Arno Penzias, who spoke of the irony of humans running errands for machines in the digital age. The Internet of Stuff will relieve us of some of those errands, by injecting data currently retrieved and entered by humans directly into the process.

Here's my idea for one such process: when my son turns my Nest thermostat down to 68, I would be automatically assigned the task of approving the change. Which I will not, unless he starts paying rent.
  1. John Morris
  2. 4 years ago
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Scott -- LOL, twice.
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Getting the right data to the right person at the right time is vital to making better business decisions. And data underpins automated processes too.

"When I came into motor racing so many things were a black art. But black art was a cloak for 'we don't really know'. It was intuitive engineering. I decided to make it a science. We will develop science to take away uncertainty to make winning a certainty." Ron Dennis, CEO McLaren F1

Data turns decision making from black art into science.
And Process gets the data to the right people, in the right format, at exactly the right moment.
Resulting in better decisions.

Where does that data come from? How accurate, how fresh and how useful?
We should be constantly searching for ways to improve the data.

“Bad data is worse than no data” Ross Brawn, Mercedes Benz

When I came into the field of Business Intelligence, data was pretty poor. Yes we talked about Data Warehouses, “Single versions of the truth” etc. but the source was often suspect and many things were unmeasurable

It has got a lot better. The days of horrendously complex integration are past – most data has an IP address and simple tools like Import.io can scrape published databases every second if need be.

The tools for turning data into insight are improving too. Simple, cheap tools turn almost any data into instant visual insight. We can compare multiple data sources to check eachother or compare against historical data. Data has grown up.

The Internet of Things will take this to a whole new level. Give us real-time insight as to what is actually happening, without it having to go through batch processes for collection and integration. It goes straight to source, eliminating human error in measurement (and before anyone has a chance to put their spin on it).

So how can it be used in process? Let’s take one simple real-life example.

A friend has developed a simple fuel tank measurement system in the Outback of Australia for his fuel company. He used to ask customers to check their meters and send in the measurement weekly. Then he would organise his tanker routes to fill up the tanks most in need. Panic “I’ve run out” calls were common and could result in 300 mile journeys.

Now his fuel level meters are connected, via a simple, in-house developed, IoT system. They report immediately when fuel falls below a fixed level, but also report the exact amount on a regular basis. From this he has plotted usage rate, so he knows not just when the tank is getting low, but how many days are left before they run out. Further, he can plot this against events – he knows that it goes down quicker in certain months because of harvest, or winter, or even, in one case, a festival.

So his process system can plot a much more effective route to fill the tanks. He has cut his mileage by 30%. Eliminated outages and “mercy dashes”. His customers don’t have the hassle of collecting the data. And he can see a faulty sensor very quickly through checking the usage pattern against the reading, making sure there are no false positives which lead to run-outs.

These are the sorts of benefits which IoT can bring to process. Sensors can build up much richer data, without the errors introduced by people collecting data, by batch sampling etc. Usage patterns, expected values etc. can show errors. And the result is that processes, whether human or machine, can be much more effective.
Dynamic Process
Oxfordshire, UK
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The "things" that undertake some monitoring of activity using the internet which become "commercialised" as opposed to consumer actions then real time processes will truly deliver.

Take a home healthcare monitor as example where in the "family" just passes messages for family intervention. However where this is the responsibility of a professional healthcare operation a message would trigger a series of actions which becomes a mission critical process. If say one person does not respond then automatically should within a set time frame be passed to others. Thereafter all actions are recorded and reported on a classic "process" real-time environment. Every one knows what action is required and any life threatening deviations can be quickly highlighted triggering further actions. Agree totally with Peter J in his closing comments
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