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You’ve probably never wondered how intelligent a hand soap dispenser can be. At least, not until you find an empty dispenser in a public restroom. The good news for people living or traveling in Austria these days is that they’ll no longer experience this inconvenience. The leading local provider of hygiene solutions decided to combine IoT and advanced analytics to deploy a new generation of “intelligent” soap, disinfectant, and towel and paper dispensers. These intelligent machines not only share their status in real time with the facility managers but can also predict future usage and therefore know in advance when they will need refilling and when their batteries will need changing.

As well as delivering a more pleasant experience for end users, this results in increased efficiency and stronger compliance with health regulations for facility managers. And for the hygiene solutions provider,  Hagleitner, this fruitful business transformation means a competitive boost on a highly competitive market.

This real business story illustrates why some observers think we’re entering the most disruptive economic age since the industrial revolution. Intelligent technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things, cloud, robotics, and blockchain have the potential to revolutionize almost every aspect of our professional and personal lives.

Such innovation and disruption is fueled by data. It’s all around us, generated by every kind of device, interaction, movement, and transaction---and is multiplying at an exponential rate. But like the original industrial revolution, an abundance of raw materials on their own isn’t enough. They need to be processed, refined, designed, and manufactured into consumable commodities. This requires a key technology enabler to bring all these together, and advanced analytics technology is the steam engine of today.

How Analytics Enable the “Intelligent Enterprise”

In the past, analytics were largely confined to data analysis specialists in the IT organization to create reports to order. With greater data democratization, more business users have access to self-service tools---yet they still need to learn the tools, understand the data models, and manage the content.

The next stage of development is the embedding of analytics in line-of-business applications, which can eliminate the need for complicated and time-consuming data preparation processes. According to a recent report by Ventana Research1, nearly three-quarters (73%) of organizations felt it was important to embed analytics within other systems. But what really makes this the steam engine of the digital age is augmented analytics, regarded by many as the future of data and analytics. This approach automates insights using machine learning and natural-language generation, giving users instant access to the information they need and enabling expert data scientists to focus on more specialized problems.

In what we at SAP call the era of the “intelligent enterprise,” augmented analytics provides the intelligence that will free up employees to do more meaningful work, help deliver a better customer experience, and drive new business models and revenue streams.

Adding Intelligence through Analytics

Companies around the world are already successfully embedding advanced analytics into their business processes to improve operational performance, or to add intelligence to their products and services.

As the world’s leading source of news and intelligence about professional markets, Thomson Reuters certainly understands the importance of accurate and reliable information. The company has recently integrated advanced cloud analytics powered by in-memory computing into its ONESOURCE tax technology solution, to help businesses accurately and efficiently comply with constantly changing global tax regulations and plan for the future. Similarly, another leading global provider of professional information services is helping finance departments to make sense of the growing mass of corporate data from fragmented systems. With its CCH Tagetik software, the Netherlands-based Wolters Kluwer is using Big Data, advanced analytics, and cloud technology through an in-memory business data platform to help revolutionize the world of corporate performance management.

Adding intelligence throughout the supply chain has enormous potential to improve everyone’s lives, from promoting sustainable procurement to reducing carbon emissions and unnecessary power usage. And in some industries, it’s very obvious when things aren’t working smoothly. As we illustrated at the start, Austria-based Hagleitner Hygiene International has used innovative analytics to move from a commodity product-based business model to a service-based model and stay ahead in a highly competitive washroom hygiene market. This new approach means that facilities are always fully stocked and customers enjoy higher standards of hygiene, service, and employee satisfaction.

And just as we notice when hygiene dispensers are empty, we notice when refuse bins are full. With its EnerClever’s turnkey waste management system, EOH International is helping to keep our cities cleaner with a faster, more reliable waste collection service for citizens and businesses. Using real-time data from bin sensors, the solution helps to keep containers healthy, lower resource consumption, reduce the carbon footprint, enhance driver productivity, and improve service delivery.

Get on the Path to Embedded Intelligence

These are just a few examples of how you can embed intelligence in devices, equipment, processes, and software applications. And there’s a wide variety of options out there, from empowering users with out-of-the-box analytical content embedded in their day-to-day applications, to building your own application extensions. Or you can augment end-to-end business processes with enterprise-grade machine learning capabilities using existing intelligent algorithms or bringing your own predictive models.

One thing’s for sure: Embedded analytics are the future. It’s estimated that by 2021, 90% of new intelligent systems will have an embedded decision-centric computing architecture that automatically detects and evaluates conditions and makes decisions about how to respond. You need to keep up.

Learn More

For the latest stories on how SAP’s partners are embedding advanced analytics capabilities to drive the intelligent enterprise, visit the SAP Build Better website.

This article originally appeared in the SAP D!gitalist magazine and has been republished with permission.