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IoT Experts Impart Edge Strategy Advice

IoT experts from Fortune 500s reveal their advice for working with start-ups.

Edge computing architecture can spur business innovation, said speakers at the IoT at the Edge Digital Symposium . But speakers stressed the need to be vigilant.

During the “Capturing Business Opportunities and Reaching ROI with IoT at the Edge” session, panelists imparted ideas on how to work with start-ups and the importance of considering a company’s needs and uses for data.

Engaging With Start-ups

Ford Motor Co.’s global strategy and business development associate director, Dennis C. Liu, told attendees that start-ups struggle to be disruptive, while large companies such as Ford have to be disciplined and stick with tradition, but that such rigidity and conservatism is how the company got to where it is today.

Liu said that start-ups should think creatively to mitigate some of the missteps that big companies have already gone through.

“The struggle is when people automatically assume that a start-up or big company needs to act in a way that you want them to – there tends to be a lot of disappointment if that’s how you’re going into it,” Liu added.

Ford has considered working with some 1,800 innovative start-ups but added that some aren’t always used to working with big companies. Out of those 1,800 start-ups, Liu told attendees that his team is conducting pilots and proof of concept types of work with around 120 to 130 at any given time, however, around just 10% make it to a strategic alignment-related discussion.

“A fraction of those make it across the line and when they do the bar is extremely high but I think that alignment and engagement process gets increasingly more difficult but also helps make sure everyone is aligned in the journey that we have ahead,” Liu said.

Bayer Crop Science principal engineer, Peri Subrahmanya said it is best to adopt a ‘test and learn strategy’ in which a company tries disruptive, innovative technologies, then learns from the experience of using them and whether it was successful or not and move on.

“It is easy to get wowed and attracted by new technologies while not knowing about having the perspective of the outcome you’re trying to achieve,” Subrahmanya told the audience.

Implementing Edge and Data Security

Speakers stressed the need to secure data and handling to align with the needs of the business.

At Ford, Liu said architecture explained that his team treats data much like the car products produced – that mistakes can cost lives.

Liu noted that artificial intelligence is a “huge opportunity” for Ford, and told attendees that his team has seen start-ups using edge, as well as asking what his team needs in terms of security, describing such a question as “a welcome thing to hear in the industry.”

Liu said large companies such as Ford should approach innovations in the same way that Ford approaches the safety of a vehicle.

Referring to Ford’s use of a consumer’s data as being “stewards” of that data, “the old traditions still stand for us,” he added.

For Subrahmanya’s team at Bayer, data begins on the R&D side – with internal researchers using company-owned fields to see whether data can inform customers of how products, such as seeds, are being affected by conditions to provide farmers with optimal information on when to plant or harvest.

He stressed the importance of that data being provided promptly, highlighting that some of the company’s agriculture customers are based in remote areas of Ukraine, Russia

or Australia where the ability to transmit data may prove difficult.

Describing his team’s work as a collaboration with farmers, Subrahmanya stressed the importance of providing his customers with prescriptive analytics to help with their work, adding that ROI “is there because of time needs, visibility, and image processing.”

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