BPM empowering IoT business users
By Gal Horvitz
IoT (Internet of Things) devices have become increasingly popular in recent years. They are all around us – from fitness trackers on our wrists to smart thermostats in our homes – and adoption will only continue to grow in the coming years. In fact, Gartner, Inc. reported that 5.5 million new things were connected in 2016 alone, upping the total of connected things worldwide to 6.4 billion, a 30 percent increase from 2015. Gartner projects we will reach 20.8 billion by 2020.
IoT devices are continuously tracking and using data and information about the way we interact with the physical world. With this data, they make our everyday lives easier. The business world is taking notice of this growing market and the benefits that can be gained. Companies have begun to deploy IoT solutions into their business operations. For example, UPS uses IoT sensors on its delivery trucks to collect data on drivers’ routes, delivery efficiency and truck performance. Disney World employs IoT in its wearable “MagicBand” wristband, which not only allows guests to get on rides quickly, but also uses RFID tags to collect data and track their activities in the park.
While this data is useful, there is still a disconnect in integrating these powerful IoT devices with mission-critical business processes. Business process management (BPM) is the key to bringing together IoT data and business processes to unlock positive results. It has become the leading technology in fast, enterprise-changing systems that optimize and streamline workflows for organizations across an array of industries.
Unlocking the Power of Combining IoT and BPM
Let’s start by reviewing the pros of IoT and BPM. IoT devices excel at sensing, alerting, augmenting reality and generally interacting fluidly with the wearer or user, while BPM excels in system integration, data processing and process logic areas. Together, they fill each other’s technological gaps.
BPM is an extremely time-sensitive and responsive technology that allows time-critical, dynamic business processes to be changed quickly and while processes are still in progress. This means that BPM systems can take advantage of the real-time nature of data coming out of and going back into IoT devices. It’s an ideal fit for business applications.
Both systems can support human-centric, system-centric and hybrid scenarios. In a human-centric scenario, the BPM system factors in the human element in the business process, putting the person in the center of decision-making and action. This makes it a great match for IoT medical and wearable technology advances.
IoT devices send collected data over a cellular or Wi-Fi network to a centralized database. The BPM software then monitors this database for changes. When a change is detected, the BPM software will start a process to initiate an optimal response. When this important change – also known as a “business moment,” a disruptive, sometimes unpredictable change that occurs during short windows of time within a business ecosystem – is found, key personnel and resources will be able to quickly identify and make well-informed decisions in a timely manner for the best course of action.
IoT and BPM Integrations in Action
Here are three examples of how IoT can take part in business processes across various industries:
- Energy/utility provider field agents who carry sensors, detectors and other equipment. Such devices can be integrated with business processes such as safety checks and client provisioning.
- Defense/security equipment and operatives with smartglasses. Glasses can take photographs of a situation area, and send these along to a situation room to process.
- Travelers whose flights have been cancelled because of bad weather. Once the bad weather has been detected, the flight cancellation triggers a process that sends an alert to the traveler’s cell phone and updates the hotel desk personnel and rental car company of their customer’s later arrival.
Remote medicine or “telemedicine” is a growing trend for healthcare providers worldwide. The trend is being fueled by the increasing amount of IoT medical devices that are being used in the field. According to a Research and Markets study (November 2015), the IoT healthcare market is being driven by rising demands for improved healthcare, reduced cost of care and evolution of high-speed networking technologies, and is expected to grow from $32.47 billion in 2015 to $163.24 billion by 2020.
Let’s now dive a little deeper into a healthcare case study on how a major European hospice is transforming patient care by combining IoT medical devices with an intelligent BPM solution.
Case Study: Hospice
Background: The hospice has been using telemedicine and cardiac telemonitoring devices for 20 years, but its leadership sought a solution that would allow their doctors to provide better care. The hospice wanted non-technical staff to be able to rapidly build and change forms on a browser for their customers/patients, as well as manage all aspects around the care of hospital patients and the internal procedures for medical staff.
Problems and challenges: Although the hospice had mobile devices in place, one of the biggest challenges it faced was what to do with the data it was collecting. Data alone (sometimes too much data) was becoming too confusing to healthcare providers, and the information was not intelligently integrated with any of its medical processes. The hospice also experienced the following problems and challenges:
- Device diversity and interoperability
- Lack of data integration
- Inability to scale, handle data volume and see overall performance over time
- Systems were not flexible and could not handle the evolution of applications being implemented and used
- Lack of data privacy
- Data required medical expertise in order to determine next process of care
Solution: By implementing and connecting IoT medical devices, such as blood pressure, ECG and heart monitors, glucose meters and insulin pumps, doctors and medical stuff can now remotely assess and monitor a patient’s vital signs.
The data collected is instantly transmitted to doctors in other locations. The doctors review the data and decide whether or not they need to see a patient in person, instruct on-site caregivers on how to best treat the patient and respond to warning signs. Doctors and the medical teams manage these processes on mobile devices and tablets using BPM software.
Results: By integrating the IoT devices with newly implemented BPM software, the hospice now has a visual representation of each patient’s data and records. This has helped enhance senior management’s reporting capabilities as well as work allocation and task routing for hospital staff. Healthcare providers and their patients have experienced the following benefits:
- Provided real-time care management
- Lowered cost of care
- Improved patient outcomes
- Improved quality of life
- Improved user experience
- Increased efficiency due to the ability to work on the same forms and reports at the same time, from any location
IoT + BPM is the Future
Although IoT and BPM integrated technology is still in its infancy, it will continue to become more prevalent and complex. This means that more integrated systems will be needed. As the technology adapts and grows, more decision-making processes will be added and managed in these types of systems.
Intelligent solutions will be able to learn from past history, perform pattern recognition, access millions of pages of research and data, provide advice and even perform actions independently. We’ll start to see more advanced applications across all industries.
Where is the human role in this increasingly systemized world? The beauty of IoT and BPM is that the technology becomes an important factor for its users. Systems can guide and advise, and leave the most difficult decisions to the experts. Hand in hand, users and their system will be better equipped to provide easier, faster and more optimized service. The integration between IoT devices and BPM presents a viable solution with a bright future – one that will connect people, things and systems together as part of business-critical processes.
Gal Horvitz is CEO of PNMsoft (http://www.pnmsoft.com), a global software company that provides BPM software and solutions.
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