OT Hub Connected Operations and IoT

16 December 2020

OT Hub, Connected Operations and IoT

When people talk about the ‘Internet of Things’, the first thing that comes to mind is a toaster that tells the Lizard Men if you had cinnamon bagels for breakfast, or a fridge that adds eggs and milk to your shopping list on Alexa (despite your lactose intolerance) and plays Spotify tracks by Frank Sinatra when you’re a Linkin Park fan.

It is so much more than that.

Internet of Things (or IoT) devices are defined as pieces of hardware with a sensor that transmits data from one place to another over the internet. The above examples are abstract but put into a real-world context, have so much power to transform the way our world works and communicates. Imagine you owned a delivery company with 100 vans, and you had a sensor in each one that told you what the level and temperature of the oil in the engine was. Knowing this in real time would tell you if you needed to top up the oil or if the engine were overheating, which you could use to prevent the van from going off the road and impacting your company’s ability to make deliveries and in turn, keep your customers satisfied.

Taking that to the next level, combining the information from the engine sensor with the date of the last oil change would allow you to predict when each van would need to be serviced, so you could organise your deliveries accordingly and maintain your ‘Key Performance Indicator’ of ‘On time deliveries’ & ‘Customer satisfaction’.

Digital Twins

The method used to make this type of solution a reality is called Digital Twins. In the simplest terms, it’s creating a ‘Digital’ model for a ‘Physical’ device (like a refrigerator or van) that consumes the data generated by the sensors on the physical device and reacts to it in some manner. If only enterprises had a single place to store a list of their assets and configuration items that we could link their Digital Twins to? Oh wait! They already spend wads of cash on the CMDB in their ServiceNow instance so why not use that?!

Enter Connected Operations

Connected Operations is the new application from ServiceNow which was announced at Now at Work 2020 and is their entry to the IoT sector.

It gives us the ability to create Digital Twins which can consume the data from real world sensors and associate those twins to the devices already in the CMDB.  In a well maintained CMDB, we would have a corresponding asset record for each configuration item record, allowing us to combine the configuration and financial information for real world devices into a single pane of glass.

Connected Operations leverages Microsoft Azure IoTHub, so we can scale the number of devices we monitor without stressing the instance, but also apply rules against the data we are consuming.

In our previous example, we talked about sensors monitoring the oil level or temperature within the engine of a delivery van.  We can monitor those values and if they go above a certain level, ServiceNow can trigger a flow to take any action we want, such as:

Let us go one step further.  How about a notification, sent to the driver’s phone telling them to slow down and pull over when safe? Use their mobile device to pull their GPS location, then send a notification to the mechanic to go to that location and inspect the van? Maybe even find the nearest available driver of another van, to see if they have any capacity to complete remaining deliveries? (or more likely notify all the remaining customers that there has been a delay. Thanks a lot Amazon Prime. Next day…. Yeah right?!)

Bringing the solution together with OT Hub

Because every client situation is unique, we need to be both ServiceNow experts and real-world technologists; we need a solution that fits the problem and that is where OT Hub comes in.

It was devised to help ServiceNow customers leverage the power of the platform and combine it with the real-world systems to form a new solution. We will be encountering many puzzles that will need to be solved, such as:

Whatever the challenge may be, we are ready!

More insights

7 January 2021

Managing IoT Assets at Scale

A discussion of how IT Asset Management (ITAM) might apply to IoT Devices, touching upon IoT Devices in the CMDB, Product Models and the concept of Digital Twins....

23 December 2020

Getting IoT Devices to Talk to ServiceNow at Scale

If organisations are to harness the data generated by IoT devices, they need a solution that can scale with them, and adapt to both their customer’s & organisation’s needs....

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