Ultimate Customization – When Is It Justified for Enterprise Internet of Things?
The struggle between custom and off-the-shelf Enterprise Internet of Things (EIoT) seems to be taking forever. As we work towards creating cohesive, reliable, and cost-effective EIoT solutions, we collide all the pros and cons of both options. Custom solutions are favored for their ability to finely adjust to specific business needs, laying a strong foundation for success right from the start. On the other hand, ready-made solutions are generally more cost-effective. In addition, ready-made are becoming more and more sophisticated to satisfy the wider business need. Thus, prioritizing one factor, companies often opt for a corresponding approach for IoT solutions development. However, it results in sacrificing other factors, which brings additional business risks.
To avoid choosing between the lesser of two evils, we offer to dive into cases where customization is fully justified and even more – when it’s necessary for the EIoT solution to succeed. PSA shares the experience on proven cases and controversial issues of EIoT customization so you do not lose vigilance when planning Enterprise Internet of Things upgrades.
What Is Customization for Enterprise Internet of Things?
Creating a custom enterprise IoT solution means building it from scratch in strict adherence to the company’s business needs. Customization also means adjusting the ready-made components to the required functional set and the environment of use. In fact, every IoT application requires at least minimal customization to adapt it for the business. The question that arises here is to what extent you are going to customize. For instance, the customizable off-the-shelf solution can cope with data configuration in common cases, but it brings issues with multiple types of atypical data. The same touches on device implementation. You can build a custom device from a PCB or purchase ready-made components that usually allow for multiple use cases, which subsequently increases its cost. Technically, “customization degree” depends on integration needs and features to be built-in, but is also due to the business strategy selected.
If you are Intending to implement an EIoT solution, you should decide on customization for the hardware, software, cloud platform, and apps. Ready-made hardware & software are always focused on low-cost and simple enough solutions promising fast time-to-market and ROI. Naturally, custom Enterprise Internet of Things appears to satisfy more complicated and far-sighted business strategies. However, every case should be considered individually.
5 Scenarios When You Can Not Do without Custom Enterprise Internet of Things
Highly Original Products, Individual Request & Strict Requirements
In many cases, custom Enterprise Internet of Things solutions are required for innovative inventions that cannot be off the shelf. Relying on on-the-shelf components decreases control over the product, which may bring unpredicted issues and violate the reputation of the newly-made product. Highly specialized businesses may require specific ways of data management within EIoT solution as well as higher resistance to operate in harsh environments. This factors together with the business environment result in very strict requirements for EIoT solutions to succeed.
It frequently touches industrial enterprises who simply can’t pick up suitable off-the-shelf IoT-enabled products to satisfy their business needs. Products suitable for highly specialized needs often include excessive functionality, which makes them both too complicated and costly. Anyway, a custom solution appears to be the only way to satisfy complex needs and strict requirements for collection, processing, and analysis of data while gaining substantial benefits from Enterprise Internet of Things implementation. In addition, the custom solution allows for better cost control.
Large Enterprise Internet of Things Projects & Rapid Scalability Expected
The obvious downfall of ready-made solutions is their limited scalability potential. The limits are related to both the hardware (power, communication opportunities, device count) and software (data management capabilities) primarily. You can often face a situation when scalability is supported by third-party software, but the increase in users or devices connected subsequently leads to an increase in license cost.
For example, let’s take a look at agriculture enterprises intending to implement real-time monitoring for their greenhouses within one sector in test mode. When satisfactory results, the firm would predictably intend to expand the monitoring area, the number of parameters to be tracked, or add new functionality, such as intelligent reactions. For instance, the temperature or the humidity alarm might trigger automatic watering. These scalability activities require adjustments in software, hardware, and cloud layers, as well as management of increased loads. This naturally, is better performed with custom solutions.
Let’s consider another example – a product startup that succeeds in your country, and you are preparing its international release. This scenario should be considered in advance to prepare the customizable infrastructure to minimize further development efforts and intermediaries' participation to ensure seamless interaction of end-users with your product.
The Industry Is Receptive to Innovations & Trends
If an innovation can be applied profitably at the enterprise, it will certainly be applied. And the more directly it affects efficiency, the faster its implementation is expected. Off-the-shelf applications are generally rigid and can’t withstand the innovations gathering pace. Their extension potential is very limited. For instance, when buying third-party software, you are forced to rely on in-built features and updates offered by a provider. This significantly increases the risk of falling behind the competitors who manage to master innovations faster.
When it comes to the Enterprise Internet of Things, we can speak about more sensitive sensors, new communication technologies and ways of organizing IoT networks, more affordable hardware components, cameras, and so on. Custom solution allows for future enhancements considering industry specifics. Small and highly specialized organizations are most receptive to innovation. They have the ability to flexibly adapt depending on the nature and pace of development of industrial production, which is natural through the lack of appropriate ready-made solutions in the market.
The Solution of Enterprise Internet of Things Is to Manage a Substantial Amount of Data
Solutions aimed at generating, collecting, analyzing, and managing a huge amount of data are advised to be custom. When starting a large project, such as a complete digital transformation for manufacturing, the IoT-enabled solution has to be adapted to all the business and environmental conditions. Data produced by every enterprise is unique by default, which requires the adjusted business strategy, goals, and technical implementation. It’s impossible to select an effective ready-made solution to consider all the details. Even when customizing, it should be reserved for further enhancement. These enhancements are commonly based on the results of the advanced analysis performed by Enterprise Internet of Things solutions.
It can be said that most large EIoT & IIoT projects fall under this category. That is, if you decide to get the most out of the data you produce and transform a traditional enterprise into a smart one, then customization must be taken into account from the very beginning.
Security Plays a Critical Role
By purchasing software, we thereby trust a third party to take care of the security of our assets. This especially endangers safety-critical and mission-critical systems, large corporations, and the public sector. Let’s take the rail sector as an example. Signaling, interlocking, dispatching, and other critical applications are connected posing a single attack surface. Through the IoT asset management is increasingly gaining momentum in rail, and more and more assets are involved in the network, creating new potential points for attack. We still remember the case of Colonial Pipeline. Those systems were completely down for 5 days after a ransomware attack.
The attack surface in ready-made solutions is larger for Enterprise Internet of Things since it is designed to combine multiple components. An attack on third-party software can easily affect your critical systems. By breaking the remote access system, confidential data can easily be gained. It is also a tempting attack case because one attack could target a number of companies in the same industry that utilize a specific software. Surely, cyberattacks happen rarely, but their consequences can be, without exaggeration, catastrophic. Thus, customization increases the security level by putting this challenge completely under your control.
Controversial Points on Customization for Enterprise Internet of Things
It often happens that it’s impossible to distinguish a dominant component for product development, which we described above. Then controversial issues enter the arena, which can be debated forever. Let's take a closer look.
Cost. It seems obvious that ready-made solutions are chosen when the budget is very limited. They say that a ready-made product, distributed among multiple users, divides the cost between them, which means it is impossible to lose in price. But this is not entirely true. More depends on the nature of the product. In the long run, ready-made ones often cost more due to subscriptions and updates, and become more expensive with your scalability. Despite the higher initial price, custom development allows for better cost control.
Duration. Another indisputable point is that custom IoT development takes longer time, which postpones implementation and time-to-market. However, small investments and rapid introduction often bring a quite modest profit, while long-term investments are expected to return in significant profit with a robust strategy.
Flexibility. A custom solution can always be designed more flexibly to adjust not only to emerging technologies but also to flexible business models. They are aligned with flexible manufacturing systems that also become a trend in view of rapidly changing conditions. Custom IoT-enabled solutions give additional flexibility to adapt to non-standard situations and achieve a higher level of business performance. Today, more products are designed to be highly customizable having plenty of interfaces for interacting with various systems. Those products are naturally more costly.
Support. When purchasing ready-made software, support is usually provided, but it aims at environment setup and bug fixing things without adding new features. Surely, it may happen that a provider meets you here and creates a personalized version of their product for you, but this is an exception rather than a rule. Support for Enterprise Internet of Things solutions involves complete support for all its components. Thus, if you develop a custom IoT solution, make sure you will be provided with a reliable support team after its implementation.
To Sum Up: Custom Enterprise Internet of Things
Customization is an integral part of any IoT product or solution development. The crucial decision to be taken by a developer is related to the scale of customization.
An off-the-shelf solution has a lower revenue cost but higher recurring costs such as components and software licensing costs. It may be efficient for enterprise use when cost-effectiveness is at prime focus without plans for scalability.
Custom solutions of Enterprise Internet of Things gain the expense of their flexibility potential first which allows them to adopt innovations, changing business environments, and scalability needs. They allow enhanced planning activities and provide for better cost control.
Customization is also increased for highly specialized and safety-critical systems, as well as solutions with strict requirements defined.
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