A Practical Guide on Preparing for the Internet of Things

January 28, 2016

6:00 pm

The Internet of Things is a concept quickly becoming integrated into our business operations and personal lives. This process is accelerating at a rapid rate – in fact many believe that there will be as many as 50 billion Internet of Things devices by 2020 (if not more!), up from 10 billion in 2015.

This explosion of growth has had a huge impact on the influx of data we have seen over the last decade and what we expect to see in the next one. As much as a 4,300 percent increase in annual global data generation is expected by 2020, leading to a staggering figure of 35 zettabytes (ZB).

If companies aren’t prepared they could end up spending the next six months to a year cultivating the necessary infrastructure and developing a strategy needed to match competitor efforts in drawing insight from their data.

What Is the Internet of Things and Why Is it Important?

Commonly abbreviated to IoT and widely acknowledged to be a key technology trend this year and over the coming years, the Internet of Things is a term encompassing the ever-growing network of devices, physical objects, buildings, vehicles, etc. Devices in this network are able to pass information to other devices via embedded electronics (RFID tags), software, sensors and network connectivity.

As technology has developed, more and more devices have evolved to become “smart” –smartphones, smart watches and even smart thermostats! All of these devices born from the new wave of technology are capable of communicating and transferring data between each other, often able to send and perform tasks.

We already live in a world where we can control the temperature of our thermostats using an app on our smartphone or even record our favorite program remotely that we would otherwise miss due to being out of the house.

The Internet of Things is effectively changing the way we live. As Jay B. Nash puts it, instead of having “slaves” monitoring our thermostat, fridge or store stock 24/7, we are now able to automate a huge range of these monotonous processes.

This presents us with more freedom and time for other, arguably more important tasks but also a challenge that we need to overcome – the explosion of machine-generated data and how exactly we can capture and draw insight from it.

How Can Companies Prepare?

With companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung (amongst others) throwing their hat in the ring to join the IoT revolution, it becomes inevitable that these “smart devices” will become even smarter, producing more detailed data as we move into the future.

Unlocking the potential insight of this data is key to our future success as businesses. So, how do we prepare for this inevitable influx of data?

The challenges include infrastructure, data storage and an analytics platform capable of reporting on the huge volumes of live data created – this is, after all, the age of big data.

Infrastructure: Ensuring that there is appropriate network bandwidth to cope with volatile data. For example, traffic data is known to be a little unpredictable and could cause data spikes. Companies need to be aware of this and take the appropriate measures to be able to cope.

Data storage: The variety of data produced by IoT devices may render certain current storage systems and data warehouses obsolete. Utilizing alternative agile storage infrastructures is essential in order to cope with the new, diverse data being created, such as customer behavior information, weather data, geo-location data and sensor information.

Analytics: So you’ve revamped your infrastructure and data storage technologies in order to capture and store this data. Now what?… You need an analytics platform to turn your big data into insight and action. But you need the right one – one that can scale to keep up with the new formats and ever-growing volumes of data. One that is able to cope with the integration of diverse data providing users with only one version of the truth. And one that is agile enough to be able to deliver reporting and analysis capabilities over live-data.

Benefits

The obvious benefit is quite simple – the more data available to us should theoretically equal more insight. Is it really that straightforward though?

If managed correctly, real-time data brings with it real-time insights; decisions can be made faster and thus business changes can be implemented quicker.

For example, fine-tuning marketing and sales campaigns becomes more powerful due to the faster and more accurate insight that this real-time data brings. The same as the job of a supply chain manager who is able to push forward refinements faster to the supply chain leading to increased efficiency and potential cost-savings.

Perform better, but quicker. This is the mantra that IoT should bring, but it’s only achievable with the best and most agile technologies.

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Contributor to Smart Data Collective and iCrunchData News blogging communities. My posts are focused around how we can make better use out of the data that we have available to us and the latest innovations around big data and technology.

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