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Author's profile photo Alexandra Carvalho

SAP and the Internet of Things

We hear the term Internet of Things everywhere. However, what exactly is the Internet of Things?


The Internet of Things is about devices ubiquitously connected to the internet, how they interact, and how individuals and businesses can use them to their own benefit.

Nowadays, we do not “get connected” to the internet, we simply are connected. It is like the air we breathe: it is there, 24/7. Our mobile devices, computers, cars, our wearables, home devices (air-conditioning, security systems, smoke-alarms) are all connected, all the time. Should we call it then the Internet of People? We communicate, we post to the social media, we interact with others.


Every single search in Google, every post in Facebook or Twitter tells a lot about you. We have seen Facebook’s Social experiment and how they can manipulate feelings based on users’ newsfeed posts. We have seen Google’s Flu research: based on the words searched by users, Google can determine with a high degree of accuracy where the flu activity is.

It is all based on data collection – either by something we post in the internet, through our mobile devices, or through data collected from sensors.

Devices with embedded sensors collect a multitude of information like temperature, geographical location, time, items searched and purchased. Everything we interact with, anything we touch will have sensors that collect information about us and our actions.

How you collect data from The Internet of Things and turn it into something meaningful and actionable. How you move and integrate that into your business applications. How you manipulate this information and use it for your advantage. This will create the opportunity to run your business in smarter ways: from creating new business models, to improving business processes, to reducing costs and risks.

Use cases

There are many ways that businesses can benefit from the Internet of Things. Here are some examples:


In Retail, sensors in membership cards can provide retailers with additional information on shoppers’ habits and offer them discounts as they move within the store, or at the point of sale.

They can also put cameras and sensors in the stores to obtain insights on shoppers’ journey through the store. How long they stay in a certain aisle, their route inside the store, and ultimately what they buy. It can help retailers optimize stores’ layout, which can lead to revenue increase.

Air travel

Airplane manufactures have been  putting networked sensors that continuously send  wear and tear data to their computers, allowing them to proactively maintain aircraft parts, reducing downtime and improving safety.


Agriculture and Meteorology can significantly benefit from the Internet of Things, by using sensors that collect data on environmental conditions (soil moisture, ocean currents, or weather).


In Logistics and Distribution, the knowledge of weather conditions, traffic patterns, and vehicle location can increase routing efficiency through constant routing adjustments that can not only reduce congestion costs but also increase the network’s capacity.

Oil exploration

Oil companies can reduce exploration costs by increasing accuracy based on sensors placed in the earth’s crust, and chemical analysis produce more accurate readings of the location.


The use cases are numerous. So, maybe the Internet of Things should be called the Internet of Everything.

As networks link data from products, assets, people, and operational processes, they will enhance the quality speed, and accuracy of decision making significantly.

The challenge is to automate the flow of information of the Internet of Things, turning raw data into something meaningful and actionable, capable to integrate with the existing business applications, and to give people the power to make better, smarter, and faster decisions.


Collect Data

The sensors embedded in devices produce data that needs to be brought together. SAP offers Sybase SQL Anywhere, a small footprint smart database that works both online and offline. It has sophisticated batch and replication technologies that allows a device to go offline but still collect data, and then synchronize the data when the connection is re-established.

Manage devices: Machine to Machine or M2M

How does a device relate to another device? How does the application managing these devices decide which devices are more important than the other ones? The machines need to be able to decide which one of them has to be selected over another one at a certain point in time. The machines will become smarter through a connected network. The network itself needs to become self-smarter too!

Networks have to become smarter

SAP offers ESP (Event Stream Processor), a processing technology that allows the analysis of data in real-time as it comes across the network, enabling business-oriented decisions. It monitors and analyzes the incoming data from the smart devices. It addresses the velocity aspect of massive inflight datasets (big data).

Devices, data, networks and business applications have to come together to enable the “Edge to end scenario” which is taking data from a machine, making decisions there at the device (even offline), or making decisions over the network in real-time, using Event management technologies, and smarter business decisions using business applications, such as “Replenishment Planning”, which is an application that runs on top of HANA.

Moving Forward

The Internet of Things shows great promise. Gartner estimates that Internet of Things product and service suppliers will generate incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion in 2020. IDC forecasts that the worldwide market for Internet of Things solutions will grow from $1.9 trillion in 2013 to $7.1 trillion in 2020.

Whilst the market estimates are promising, yet business, policy, and technical challenges must be tackled before these systems are widely embraced.

While much progress has been made in the area of standards, more is needed, especially in the areas of security, privacy, architecture, and communications, in particular for uses that touch on sensitive consumer information.

On the technology side, the cost of sensors must be acceptable to justify widespread use. Networking technologies and the standards that support them must evolve to the point where data can flow freely among sensors and other technologies.

The opportunities are immense and the benefits to human lives, business and economies are immeasurable. It is too good to be true and we must embrace and embark on this new journey!

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      Author's profile photo Andy Silvey
      Andy Silvey

      Hi Alexandra,

      thank you for an excellent thought provoking overview article.

      Obviously, with all of these gazillions of 'things' doing stuff, there will need to be a super fast database behind keeping everything under control....

      Which is why the SAP Hana Internet of Things IoT Edition

      is on its way.

      It will be very interesting when we can get more information on that and understand how it is all tied together.

      Best regards,