Mastering the Internet of Things – the big data opportunity for print manufacturers

As businesses prioritise efficiency and productivity, they are looking to technology suppliers to deliver data-driven insights and value-added services. This data is being generated by the rapid evolution and maturing of the Internet of Things (IoT), which has seen the number of connected devices growing exponentially. 

The vast quantities of data collected by those devices, including those in the print ecosystem, offer significant opportunities for vendors and channel partners to distil intelligence around device activity, user behaviour and workflows. All of this can be applied to make the print ecosystem more cost-effective, productive and secure for customers. Mastering the IoT and exploiting the big data opportunity should therefore be a priority for vendors and channel partners.   

Industry 4.0 – embracing the platform economy and open data culture

The IoT is a key factor driving Industry 4.0, heralding increasing automation, data exchange, cloud and cognitive-based computing. The challenge for print vendors is to identify where the IoT offers them opportunities to increase relevance with customers as they journey towards a data-rich environment. 

A transformational aspect of industry 4.0 is the changing business models that are seeing purchasers move away from buying proprietary, standalone technology designed by a single organisation for use by a single organisation. Instead, customers are embracing a platform economy where multiple sources of external, non-proprietary data can be aggregated and analysed centrally, with the resulting intelligence integrated into the corporate ecosystem. 

However, the sheer quantity of potential data sources means vendors must look beyond the immediate print sector and instead build cross-sector partnerships to draw intelligence from diverse sources. Vendors must be willing to share their own data – suitably anonymised – as part of the bargain. This represents a significant culture shift for many print organisations, who for decades have zealously guarded their IP and installed base insights, tending to look inwards, not outwards, for inspiration. 

Transforming to an open data-driven architecture can offer opportunities for market differentiation and revenue generation, but only if print vendors can successfully undertake the culture change required. 

The rise of the intelligent MFP and its role in the IoT

MFPs have always carried a lot of computing power – the average device contains 20 million lines of code, more than the Android Operating System. In addition, MFPs already contain a variety of sensors that collect and interpret information. However, to become part of the smart, connected ecosystem, each MFP has to become not just a peer with MFPs on the same platform, but capable of accessing and analysing data from other platforms, while sharing its own data in a standardised way. 

The scale of possibilities, from Human Interface Devices to smart building platforms, means that vendors and MSPs will certainly need to take a partnership approach to integrating intelligent MFPs into IoT networks that achieve more than the sum of their parts.

Applying data across the print environment

Aside from the role of MFPs in the wider IoT, the data they generate must be intelligently applied in order to build a smarter customer print environment. Applications include optimising everything from device placement, energy usage and maintenance, through to streamlining workflows and improving the business processes that involve print. Cybersecurity is a growing area where data analytics can offer insight into potential vulnerabilities around the print network and MSPs can add value by helping organisations manage risk effectively. 

All of the above are factors in the evolving IoT big data landscape and must form part of vendor and MSP strategy.

Challenges and opportunities 

Our latest Executive Briefing report ‘Mastering the IoT, the Opportunity for Print Manufacturers’ looks at the opportunities and challenges that embracing an IoT, open platform-based economy offers the print industry. It also assesses the impact of AI and the shift to cloud-based operating models and concludes with strategic recommendations to help OEMs and MPS providers expand out of the core print ecosystem, unlock new revenue streams and ensure continued relevance to customers.  

Click here to purchase this Executive briefing.

Published : 7th May 2019