While organizations across the globe are still grappling with Big Data and its impacts, there is already a concept which is creating waves in the marketplace and, the “Internet of Things”. Being a market leader today means that organizations have to up their ante & tap into these disruptive technologies quick enough to be constantly ahead of the Curve. Interconnected devices today with Analytics interplay have enabled personalization of experiences around people in real time, helping make lives more streamlined, efficient, productive, healthy, and fun. IOT is already changing the operating rules of the game for businesses & bringing in a new world order. The world is going digital & Analytics is forming the new Knowledge base for organizations to make meaning out of this Data Deluge; an imperative for businesses today to outperform peers. Everything is going Digital & becoming quantifiable, and IOT buzzword has already been making waves in the marketplace.
Before we delve any deeper, let me first clear the air and put across a succinct definition of what IOT means & thereafter touch upon some opportunities/challenges which lie ahead. The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to uniquely identifiable objects and their virtual representations in an Internet-like structure. IoT is defined as a proposed development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data. The Internet Of Things represents a major departure in the history of the Internet, as connections move beyond computing devices, and begin to power billions of everyday devices, from parking meters to home thermostats. Estimates for Internet of Things or IoT market value are massive, since by definition the IoT will be a diffused layer of devices, sensors, and computing power that overlays entire consumer, business-to-business, and government industries. The IoT will account for an increasingly huge number of connections: 4.9 billion devices by 2015. In the consumer space, many products and services have already crossed over into the IoT, including kitchen and home appliances, lighting and heating products, and insurance company-issued car monitoring devices that allow motorists to pay insurance only for the amount of driving they do.
In the Internet of Everything world, new services, products & experiences are being unobtrusively pushed to the customer, bringing in truly customized, personalized, and streamlined experiences that are not only more productive, but more enjoyable – and will be delivered by companies and organizations that have improved their costs and productivity. In the Internet of Everything world, everything can be connected to the Internet. Connections happen at any time, any place with anything and anyone, ideally using any path and any service. Objects can be connected to the Internet, and exchange information with each other. By allowing everything to be interconnected, we shall be enabling: Recognition, Localization, Sensing & Control, and Management.
Let me take a few quick examples on how IOT is making a mark across industries. In healthcare, health monitoring devices are becoming more & more personal. Patients are given devices that connect to their body and transmit data to the relevant stakeholders (doctors, insurers, family etc). Patient’s vitals can be monitored by his physician remotely, anywhere. In Insurance, telematics data collection and analysis is becoming widespread and enabling newer business models (PAYD – Pay As You Drive). In Agriculture, detection of crop diseases by taking a picture and sending it for processing and communicate remedial measures back to farmers over sms/phone. In engineering sector, tracking and monitoring of electro-mechanical parameters to identify the drift and hence their potential failure points for quicker service/preventive maintenance. In manufacturing, devices today are talking to each other (M2M) resulting in quicker action since it bypasses human intervention and hence delays associated with it. In data centers, server’s critical parameters are being transmitted remotely and monitored by a team in near real-time. The data are shown on a dashboard and data admins can latch onto the early-warning signs for corrective actions. In transportation/logistics, the overall transport management process can be automated and the location of the buses, cabs along with associates are transmitted back to the Transport Help Desk and also relayed through an App. Here are the top business-to-business and government applications where IOT has been truly disruptive:
- Connected advertising and marketing:Leading organizations believe that this category (think Internet-connected billboards) will be one of the top three IoT categories, along with smart factories, and telecommuting support systems.
- Intelligent traffic management systems:Machina research, in a paper prepared for the GSM Association, sees $100 billion in revenue by 2020 for applications such as toll-taking and congestion penalties. A related revenue source will be smart parking-space management, expected to drive $30 billion in revenue.
- Waste management systems:In Cincinnati, residential waste volume fell 17% and recycling volume grew by 49% through use of a “pay as you throw” program that used IoT technology to monitor those who exceed waste limits.
- Smart electricity grids that adjust rates for peak energy usage: These will represent savings of $200 billion to $500 billion per year by 2025, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.
- Smart water systems and meters:The cities of Doha, Sao Paulo, and Beijing have reduced leaks by 40 to 50% by putting sensors on pumps and other water infrastructure.
But still some concerns loom in terms of adopting IOT at a wider scale. Firstly, proliferation of varied types of sensors, devices require longer support cycle for on-boarding. Even the associated data volumes are huge and need a reliable and scalable mechanism for persistence. Also, successful IOT implementation depends heavily on seamless connectivity and requires fool proof mechanism for synchronization (backup options if the connectivity goes down temporarily). Data privacy & security means the communication needs to be happen in highly secure manner with appropriate encryption measures. Robust data isolation and data privacy mechanisms/frameworks & processes need to be put in place. Device data, in most cases, need not be in a structured format for instant consumption & may have to go through a rigorous assimilation, filtration & homogenization process before it could be ‘transformed’ into standard format. Real-time analysis for data anomalies, patterns requires complex tools and quick turnaround for action (CEP Engines). Data visualization structures/mechanisms need to be built with real-time dashboards in hands of the frontline business users. Notification/Alert mechanisms with the right workflows have to be established to ensure timely delivery of insights to the right stakeholders.
With the advent of IOT, especially the High-tech suppliers are fast diversifying into other industry sectors, one example is the automotive industry where consumer demand for connected vehicles is providing new opportunities for companies who are designing bespoke semi-conductors for next generation in car entertainment systems. In future, there will be a greater emphasis on in car software with Apple already investing in building their own driverless cars & expected to license their IOS platform to allow car manufacturers to improve the interaction with vehicle systems. Improving machine-to-machine (M2M) communications is driving the need for connecting more devices to the internet and being able to remotely monitor equipment such as power generators or wind turbines etc. For enabling IOT, Predictive Analytics is the key & has been instrumental at redefining Manufacturing Operations (forecasting, cost and price modelling, warranty analytics, text mining for product development) as well as for Smart Manufacturing (risk reduction, fault detection, Predictive Failure Analysis to provide early warnings). In the domain of supply chain, with the growing volume and complexity of operations, predictive analytics is being heavily leveraged for forecasting, inventory management and production planning. Telematics, which aims at analyzing real-time actual driving behavioral data, has opened up avenues for the better optimization of premium pricing and potential discount offers for automotive clients and driver analysis, route analysis for logistic clients. Predictive maintenance & real-time asset monitoring is garnering limelight & is getting actioned by capturing/analyzing data from numerous devices in real-time to reduce downtime & even decrease safety hazards at workplace.
We’ll already see startups sprouting up around IOT-based solutions & would soon observe the need to create a platform to quickly on-board devices to transmit data to the consumers for hyper-personalized experiences and/or for speeding up business decisions with faster time to market. The accelerating data tsunami –powered by the Internet of Things and the growing recognition of the potential value of all data — means that organizations must bake in analytics from the start, making it an inherent aspect of IT delivery and making context-sensitive and location-aware capabilities ubiquitous. In the coming future, more & more commercial deals will happen that will get various manufacturers across industries working towards a common communication platform through which devices can readily pass information along to each other. Consumers will start to see more examples of device-to-device communication as more hardware vendors incorporate smarter communication devices within their products. Payment systems, whether existing credit and debit cards, new systems like BitCoin or all-online systems like PayPal and Google Wallet, will become more integrated with the Internet of Things, smoothing the friction for transactions. What the future of IOT truly beholds, only time can tell. We are into exciting times & IOT will soon be seen at the forefront of how businesses operate & service customers.