IT and OT: Allies or Adversaries?

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Chris Hummel is the former Chief Marketing Officer of Schneider Electric. See articles from Chris Leong, current CMO, here.  

Can IT and OT get along?

It’s one of the pressing questions facing the business world as the Internet of Things, or IoT, drumbeat grows louder. As the two essential ingredients for IoT, does this mean that information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) are heading for an inevitable competitive clash?

Not at all. Instead, we’ll likely see a series of complementary alliances and new business models that leverage the capabilities of both. I’d even go so far as to say that alliance building and ecosystem construction will become core competencies for the best technology companies going forward.

Most people tend to gloss over the fact that IT and OT come from two very different places:   IT is focused on storing and analyzing data while OT focuses on making things work. They come from different perspectives and disciplines with contrasting cultures, values and histories.

Companies from both sides of the aisle are competing to carve out a large role, but no company will own IoT. Google, for instance, has invested start-ups focused on robotics, created driverless cars and acquired companies like Nest and Dropcam.  The results are mixed, however, as the problems with Nest demonstrate how reliability and availability mean two different things in the IT and OT worlds. At Schneider, virtually all of our products will soon contain system-on-a-chip technologies, all the way down to wall sockets and circuit breakers, and become citizens of the converged IT/OT world.

We’re a technology company focused on innovation that helps companies improve operational efficiency while never compromising on safety, reliability and security.   Partnering is a way a life for us.   For example, our Project Thunderbird aims to combine our weather tracking systems – true SAAS offerings – and smart grid capabilities into an integrated solution that will let utilities send out trucks to likely trouble spots in thunderstorms before damage or outages occur.

Integrating IT capabilities into OT technology offers can really enhance the way we live, work and play. Windows will tint automatically to reduce glare and curb air conditioning. “Live” data from mining and drilling operations will be crunched in real-time to optimize production while minimizing environmental impact. The possibilities are endless.

Now let the match-making begin!

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