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Author's profile photo Thomas Ohnemus

I Bought a New iPhone, and I Got an IoT Device

Many processes run in the background before you buy your iPhone. How does the Internet of Things affect these processes?


I became recently the proud owner of a new iPhone.  When I bought my new iPhone, I thought I was just buying a phone. But I really bought an Internet of Things (IoT) device. I chose an iPhone to help increase my productivity and simplify my work — and my private life. My new smartphone connects my work e-mail, banking, a homekit (to control appliances in the house), music
and more.

Holding this easy-to-use device in my hand for the first time (and having an SAP background), I wondered how many processes happened in the background before I received my new mobile phone. 

In a series of blog posts, I will explore these processes in more detail and how they are impacted by the IoT capabilities.

The R&D Process

One of the best industrial design companies, Apple has created more than a phone. Its iPhone has become a device that better facilitates collaboration and exchange of information. Apple recognized this trend and changed the functional direction of their product, enabling it to serve as a smart IoT device.
And everything changed.

Smartphones have become important Internet-connected devices that understand what their users are doing, how they are doing it and where they are. This drives further innovation and development, creating massive amounts of information.


The making of the IPhone is one of the most frequently noted stories in manufacturing. Outsourcing U.S. manufacturing jobs and labor issues at a massive contractor facility with more than 230,000 employees have helped make the iPhone one of the most frequently noted stories in manufacturing. This incredible flexibility in Labor was critical for the company to scale production up and down as needed. A recent example was a last minute change to a screen design that required the complete overhaul of an entire assembly line.

A foreman immediately  roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12 hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.NYTimes

But rising labor costs and demands for better working conditions have since diminished that labor advantage. So Apple is investing more than $10B in its manufacturing flexibility via robotics and lasers. Apple now produces the desktop Mac Pro in a highly IOT automated U.S.-based plant  and plans to do the same with iPhone battery production. Foxconn, Apple’s primary assembly contractor, is building its own robots to replace 1 million workers in three years.

It is rumored that the iPhone 6 is built in an entirely automated plant. When you open the box of your iPhone 6 you may be the first human to actually touch it.



Apple also recognizes the value of sustainable business practices, adopting a three-pronged environmental responsibility strategy embedded throughout the entire product lifecycle and production process:

  • Reduce environmental footprint
  • Minimize hazardous substances
  • Improve resource efficiency    

Executing this required the enablement of IoT capabilities behind the scenes: collection and Analysis of huge amounts of data from across global operations; complex reporting (emissions, energy management, etc.); and the exchange of product sustainability data with supply chain partners.

Cloud-based business networks probably offered visibility into product and worker safety Information because transparency is key.


Integrated processes from the first product idea until the end of the lifecycle are “The Glue behind Customer Experience and Loyalty”.  IOT-driven supply chain, procurement, manufacturing and sustainability processes have increased organizations’ ability to promise, deliver, track and ensure quality and compliance. And service expectations have risen accordingly.

From knowing when your device is in need of service to automating your appointment with the Apple Genius at your nearest Apple store, IoT is changing the way products are serviced and maintained.


So the simple purchase of my iPhone was — and still is — supported by an industrial revolution being driven by the intelligence of IoT devices from the capture of requirements to the manufacturing and service of the product. I now see my iPhone in a completely different light.

The next blog post in the series will delve more deeply into the effect of IoT on research and development processes, including the “behind the scenes” capture of product requirements through social media channels.

Are you interested in more about IoT and Networked Economy, see additional content here

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Great blog!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Well composed! Very true.

      Author's profile photo Jelena Perfiljeva
      Jelena Perfiljeva

      Thomas, the iPhone 6 is not "coming", it was released almost a month ago (I guess this means you can throw your 5s model away already and get in line for the new one 🙂 ).

      But surely you can't be talking in a positive way about the conditions at the factories in China manufacturing Apple devices (there was a brilliant SNL sketch, by the way). Companies should be ashamed of such "advantage". I hope I misunderstood the tone in which it was mentioned. Really glad to hear though that Apple is switching to a different manufacturing process.

      Thank you!

      Author's profile photo Stephen Johannes
      Stephen Johannes


      I don't think the iPhone 6 was releasd in all countries, so perhaps Thomas was in one of those countries, or this blog was written off-line many moons ago and never updated before publishing.

      That being said this blog probably would have fit in better at "cult of mac" instead.  Then again most rabid apple users(myself included) are really questioning buying a 5S instead of waiting for the 6.  That being said I really hope Thomas didn't buy the current iPad Air along with that 5S, because that would have been a lot of money burnt on last year's models 😉 .

      Unfortuantely the labor practices for most high-tech devices are really bad.  You almost need to be Amish to not have purchased any high-tech devices that weren't a result of bad labor practices.

      Take care,


      Author's profile photo Jelena Perfiljeva
      Jelena Perfiljeva

      Stephen Johannes wrote:

      I don't think the iPhone 6 was releasd in all countries,

      OK, thanks for pointing that out. I'll pin it to "you have been living in the US for too long". 🙂 (Whaaat, there are other countries?!)

      There are definitely other brands just as guilty of bad labor practices, but it seemed rather inappropriate that it was presented as a positive example of efficiency (again - unless I misunderstood that).

      Author's profile photo Thomas Ohnemus
      Thomas Ohnemus
      Blog Post Author


      sure, the iPhone 6 is already on the market. One of the focus topics of this blog  is the transition to intelligent, automated manufacturing, leveraging new Technologies from Internet of Things. I just used the shift from 5 to 6 as an proment example (in this case from Apple). Best regards and thanks for your feedback, Thomas

      Author's profile photo Stephen Johannes
      Stephen Johannes

      Sorry to be critical but you wrote the blog in present tense and then released the blog, way after the iPhone 6 was released.  Can you please correct your blog so that it doesn't confuse your readers?  I also really felt you didn't support your agrument well that the iPhone was IOT device.

      Author's profile photo Thomas Ohnemus
      Thomas Ohnemus
      Blog Post Author

      Jelena, you made a good point regarding the manufacturing conditions. I tried to be neutral in my article and see it from a pure manufacturing perspective. The good news is that companies like Appple are under a huge pressure to produce sustainably and with good working conditions for the employees. According to my research, Apple is looking for new and better ways to produce sustainable products.