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Enterprise Mobility, Remote Sensors and Nervous Systems

by Kevin Benedict

January 17, 2012

I have been researching and writing about the M2M (machine to machine) market for the past three years.  I have written analyst papers that predicted the convergence of enterprise mobility and M2M.  Today I feel even stronger about that prediction. 

M2M solutions, enable machines to report to other machines data from integrated sensors.  This sensor data is analyzed so it can be used by other machines to respond with actions.  These kinds of solutions are becoming common today as wireless embedded chips (M2M) decrease in price and are readily available.  Home security systems, our in-vehicle entertainment systems, e-Readers, integrated GPS solutions, smart appliances, smart grids, etc., all have these solutions and they are used by individuals and companies today.

When businesses are developing their mobile strategies, they are increasingly incorporating mobile and remote sensor data into their plans.  The data from both human inputs (with mobile devices) and M2M sensors are in many cases equally valuable.  This data is aggregated, integrated and analyzed to optimize their business operations and business models.

Data collection systems from any source, M2M solutions, mobile devices, GPS tracking systems and remote sensors all offer valuable inputs.  In many ways it is similar to our bodies' nervous systems.  Our bodies have many different sensory systems that collect data and forward it on to the brain to be analyzed before action is taken (with the notable exception of involuntary reflexes).

  • visual system (vision - interpretation of visual light, the identification and categorization of visual objects; assessing distances to and between objects; and guiding body movements in relation to visual objects, etc.)
  • auditory system (hearing - interpretation of sound waves)
  • Somatosensory system (touch - itch, pain, tickle, pressure, temperature, posture, movement)
  • Gustatory system (tastes - sweet, salty, sour, bitter)
  • Olfactory system (smell - detects volatile chemicals and fluid phase chemicals)

The data from these sensory systems is what we as humans use to do everything.  How does our businesses use sensory data effectively?  Let's take a moment now to look at a few components of our nervous system for lessons we can apply to our enterprise's mobile strategies.

The central nervous system, consists mainly of the brain and spinal cord, and integrates information that it receives from, and coordinates the activity of, all parts of the body.  The peripheral nervous system, connects the central nervous system to sensory organs (such as the eye and ear).  The somatic nervous system controls voluntary muscular systems within the body.  The autonomic nervous system acts as a control system functioning largely below the level of consciousness.  It affects things like the heart rate, digestion, respiration rate, salivation, perspiration, diameter of the pupils, etc.

Now let's apply the components of our body's nervous system to an enterprise.

  • The central nervous system is our ERPs, business applications and business intelligence solutions.
  • The peripheral nervous system is our mobile middleware (MEAPs) and integration layers.
  • The somatic nervous systems are our workflows, alerts, approvals, plant control systems, etc.
  • The autonomic nervous system is our automated workflows, remote sensor, M2M and mobile device data synchronization and integration, automated queries, automated reports, dashboards, email deliveries, etc.    

Having large volumes of sensory data does not help unless it can be interpreted, analyzed and used to make good decisions.  The same with our enterprises.  It does not help to have large volumes of data coming into your enterprise unless it can be integrated, analyzed and used to make good decisions. 

I believe some of the biggest challenges over the next three years will be in setting up these enterprise "nervous systems" and finding a way to analyze the large volumes of real-time data coming in from them. Best in class companies will implement these solutions and will transform their companies into organizations that resemble living organism that can act upon real-time data.


Kevin Benedict, Independent Mobile Industry Analyst, Consultant and SAP Mentor Volunteer
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the SAP Enterprise Mobility and Sybase Unwired Platform Groups
Read The Mobility News Weekly
Read The M2M News Monthly
Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility analyst, consultant and blogger. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

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