The Internet of Things is a term we have probably all heard by now, but are we ready for the influx of data that a world of interconnected devices will inevitably create? There’s much to be done so that organisations across the world can benefit from more effective decision-making through the capture and analysis of their data in real time.
It is a concept quickly becoming integrated into our business operations and personal lives, with devices already capable of tracking our heart rate, step count and for businesses - their stock management. Many experts believe that there will be as many as 50bn IoT devices by 2020 (if not more), up from 10bn in 2015.
In a world with that many interconnected devices it appears that the prediction of a 4,300% increase in annual global data generation by 2020 is not exaggerated and we can only expect it to increase further in years to come.
Should companies not react appropriately and start preparing for the IoT, they risk losing ground to competitors who have developed a comprehensive digital infrastructure in order to take full advantage.
What is the IoT and why is it important?
For those uninitiated to the world of IoT, the simple explanation of, 'the ever-growing network of devices, physical objects, buildings, vehicles, etc. that are able to pass information to another device via embedded electronics (RFID tags), software, sensors and network connectivity', sums it up nicely.
Think about the evolution of smart technology over the last decade. For example, going from the basic mobile phones of the past to the sleek smartphones of today capable of tracking our sleep, diet, exercise and more.
As more smart technology has surfaced: tablets, smartwatches, thermostats, etc. the desire from the consumer to have these interlinked has increased. In the age of information we expect our devices to communicate with each other allowing us to complete tasks remotely. For example, if we leave the house without switching off the thermostat we can remotely turn this off using an application on our phone.
The IoT is effectively changing the way we live. Jay B. Nash describes a world where 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 using technology.
Automation provided through IoT devices reduces our workload and provides us with more time to focus our efforts on other important tasks but also creates a challenge to capture and centralise this wealth of data for analysis.
How can companies prepare?
IoT is in the initial stages of its growth and with multinational companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung (amongst others) realising the massive opportunity to invest their resources in IoT, it becomes inevitable that these 'smart devices' will continue to become smarter and create a faster, more interconnected world in the future.
Critical for those businesses that want to be ahead of the curve is realising the opportunity and developing their digital infrastructure, allowing them to draw insight from the data, resulting in more effective and faster decisions than the competition.
So, how do we prepare for this inevitable influx of data?
While it might be difficult to predict the future challenges, the challenges we face right now revolve around infrastructure, data storage and business intelligence.
For example, traditional business intelligence is not designed to report on such vast quantities of live data across a variety of data formats.
Infrastructure: Appropriate network bandwidth is needed to cope with processing real-time and sometimes volatile data. For example, traffic data is known to be a little unpredictable and could cause data spikes.
Data storage: The varying formats of the data generated creates a range of challenges that data storage solutions will have to tackle. Organisations need to identify and utilise agile storage in order to handle the amount of diverse data being created, such as customer behaviour information, weather data, geo-location data and sensor information.
Business Intelligence: Traditional business intelligence solutions are not designed to report on such vast quantities of live data across a variety of data formats. New, modern business intelligence like search-based analytics is needed to provide the scalability and agility to continue to meet the demands of the digital age.
Reaping the rewards: Some would say the benefit is quite straight forward - the more data available for analysis should provide a more clear view on which to base our important strategic decisions.
Is it really that straight forward?
The large quantities of data will certainly bring with it irrelevant data which will dilute the wealth of useful information and slow the end-to-end process. It is a consideration that needs to be managed correctly.
If executed properly, the benefits are obvious. For example, fine-tuning marketing and sales campaigns becomes easier due to the faster and more accurate insight that this real time data allows. 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.
Increased performance, faster access. This is the mantra of IoT analytics, but it’s only achievable with the best and most agile technologies.