By Mike Faden
Detroit, Michigan-based technology consulting and services provider Lochbridge has a long history of involvement with the Internet of Things: In the 1990s, the company helped a leading automotive manufacturer pioneer its connected-car offering by helping to develop the product’s service-delivery platform.
Now, Lochbridge CEO Romil Bahl plans to build on that expertise to fuel aggressive growth: the goal is to double the company’s revenue by 2020, while delivering a return on investment of at least 400% to its customers. “The connected car is widely considered the first successful IoT use case,” he says. “Our vision is to capitalize on this capability set, starting with the core automotive space but then expanding more broadly into the field of IoT. If we can connect to a car that’s hurtling down a highway at 80 miles an hour, we can connect to pretty much any IoT device.”
To achieve that goal, Lochbridge has fully embraced the cloud, which Bahl says is helping the company deliver solutions to customers more quickly while cutting operational costs. “Our internal strategy is to leverage the cloud for everything,” Bahl says. “For example, we don’t have an on-premises test and development environment. Everything’s in the cloud.”
Lochbridge is building IoT services designed to drive specific business outcomes for its customers, such as customer loyalty and product quality, Bahl says. An example is the company’s diagnostics-as-a-service offering, which remotely tracks a car’s or other connected device’s health, identifies potential problems, and sends alerts and service reminders.
“We’re able to proactively send messages to customers about the need to get to the service center for maintenance, or to the manufacturer/OEM to dispatch service personnel to the customer,” he says. “We can send them a health report that aggregates information from multiple sources to gather insights about the status of the device, and then tell them everything from a part’s system status to ‘there’s an issue with this part and you need to go in or get an upgrade.’”
Lochbridge builds these IoT services for its customers using Oracle cloud offerings, including Oracle Internet of Things Cloud Enterprise, a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) product that provides built-in capabilities to connect different devices, analyze data, and integrate with other cloud-based and on-premises applications. “Out of the box, Oracle Internet of Things Cloud Enterprise provides the basic building blocks required to connect devices and then gain insights,” Bahl says. “That obviously helps us onboard new customers quickly. It enables us to focus on solutions built on top of that platform.”
Also critical is the ability to integrate IoT solutions with other enterprise applications and share intelligence, adds Raj Paul, vice president of IoT and connected services at Lochbridge. “Our view of the world is that IoT brings a ‘sixth sense,’” he says, “so obviously seamless integration of that sixth sense into the enterprise is important.”
Providing these almost ESP-like diagnostic services is a critical differentiator for Lochbridge’s customers, Bahl says. “Now you’re talking differentiation. You’re driving loyalty. And you’re gathering a ton of data to improve your products, which over time reduces your warranty and repair costs.”
As it broadens its IoT activities, Lochbridge has created similar services for companies in other industries, including a mining company that needs to monitor and diagnose the overall health of equipment deep in its mines, and a utility company that monitors grid devices and overall utilization.
Another Lochbridge service enables usage-based car insurance, which uses data from vehicle sensors to help insurers calculate premiums based on how people actually drive. The new service is the latest of several generations of risk-based insurance systems, Bahl says. Each generation has provided more-sophisticated risk analysis by analyzing greater amounts of data from a car’s 200-plus sensors and other sources.
“The first generation was based simply on how many miles you drive,” he says. “The second generation added driver behavior to the mix: Are you turning abruptly, or are you screeching to a halt too many times? And the third generation can score a driver based on hundreds of data elements—not just how you’re driving, but also external factors. So, yes, you braked pretty hard, but there was an ice storm or other reasons for that.”
As Bahl sees it, the integration of IoT into the enterprise holds enormous possibilities that businesses are just beginning to explore. “What’s really exciting about all of this is that the journey on monetization of IoT has just begun,” he says. “The next 10 years will be hugely exciting in terms of the insights companies can gain into their end consumers and how they use those insights.”
Mike Faden is a principal at Content Marketing Partners. He has covered business, technology, and science for more than 30 years as a writer, editor, consultant, and analyst.