Over the past two decades, many aspects of technology have become cheaper and cheaper. IoT is no exception. Objects that would have been too low-value to connect a few years ago are now becoming part of the Internet of Things. But simply having connected or smart tech for its own sake isn’t the point. It’s all about putting the data from edge devices to practical use. Analytics delivers the real value of IoT and it’s not surprising that this is the area where businesses, vendors, and thought leaders are focusing their attention.
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Microsoft Technical IoT Specialist Kevin Saye put it plainly. “IOT is simply the ingest of data. Analytics transforms it into something real. If you aren’t considering this, you aren’t going to accomplish what you need.” This is the philosophy that informs his interaction with customers in designing IoT solutions for business. “We need to get to the real ‘why’ that determines the architecture, the data, and the security posture.”
Tahir Hussain, angel investor and Collide Village CEO, agreed. Smart devices are only as intelligent as the purpose they serve. “Technology is just an enabler. It’s not an end goal in itself. Sensors have been available for 50 years, but the end to end is new. IoT is about getting data from the local state into the cloud where tools can get access, and that data is only as good as what you can do with it.”
Real time and predictive analytics offer practical solutions
In the world of industry, the reasons for deploying IoT are often fairly clear. Detecting what is going on in real time is a straightforward way to determine if operations are running smoothly and to identify bottlenecks in production where greater efficiency could be achieved. Catching early signs of failure is another top priority for many businesses in the manufacturing sector.
According to Ranga Vadlamudi, Azure Data Solution Architect, that’s a common IoT value proposition. “ROI is not just in dollars but in improving operations and service. A business might deploy IoT to predict something happening such as a machine on the verge of failing. If you only know after the failure, you are losing productivity.” Sensors that pick up on excessive vibrations, temperature changes, and other warning signs can help technicians track which pieces of equipment need immediate attention to prevent a shut down.
Analytics is starting to run itself
Mike Courtney, Aperio Insights founder, revealed a modern approach to analyzing IoT data. It’s not just about formulating intelligent queries anymore. “With most analytics, it’s important to have a hypothesis. Then you prove or disprove it with the data. What’s been happening over time is that we are able to ask the computer to review the data and tell us what it sees. We can use AI to query the data and apply other algorithms to find something that seems to be related.”
Powerful computing has brought benefits that were previously unimagined. “We can tell the computer, ‘Here are one thousand ways humans have tried to analyze data just like this.’ Then you can simply let the analytics run itself, pull up the data and see if there is something of interest.” In a sense, the role of data sifter may be more common than that of the data scientist in the coming years.
Many insights have yet to be explored
While analytics is getting smarter, the quantity and quality of data is increasing as well. And more people than ever will have access. Steve Ball, Senet’s Senior Director of Product Management, brought attention to the massive amounts of data that may soon be available as cities become more connected. “We can expect to see IoT platforms doing analytics on open data initiatives from smart cities. There’s a lot of work to be done in defining these open exchange standards. It’s still fairly nascent in development. It’s not yet been realized what the value will be when you have millions of data points from sensors combined with other records.” Publicly available data about traffic patterns, air quality, utility usage, and more could provide unforeseen insights.
What’s the takeaway? In Mike’s words, “We live in a world of exponential change. It isn’t evolving at the rate we are used to. The business world is changing faster too. In five to ten years, it will have changed dramatically. IoT is having an exponential change on society.” Organizations of all sizes should brace themselves for unprecedented acceleration and seek out the insights that will help them prepare for what’s coming next. It may not be possible to predict the future of the connected world entirely, but analytics is at least pointing the way.