To 🐝ee or not to 🐝ee? What you can learn a🐝out IoT from 🐝ees

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🐝uzz, 🐝uzz, 🐝uzz. That was the noise I heard coming from my porch in my rental home in Washington DC. A low 🐝ut persistent humming was sounding an alarm – a hive of carpenter 🐝ees had moved in and they were slowly 🐝ut steadily eating away at the ancient wooden porch. I hurried to let my landlord know a🐝out the imminent threat to the structure of his house. He was not worried. In fact he saw it as an opportunity for improving his own life. He arranged to have the 🐝ees moved to a more suita🐝le location, and designed a great new aluminum porch with expanded features like a small greenhouse, that increased the productivity of the home as well as the market value of the property.

I thought a🐝out this incident this week as I read a🐝out the “#BringBackTheBees” campaign. I love 🐝ees! I am concerned a🐝out their future, given colony collapse disorder and the many other challenges that face them in our increasingly complex world. So I decided to write this post in honor of them, and like the “BringBackTheBees” campaign on social media, it replaces the letter '🐝” with the image of a 🐝ee throughout!

There are many things you can learn a🐝out IoT from the hum🐝le 🐝ee. The steady 🐝uzz, 🐝uzz, 🐝uzz of IoT news is trying to tell you something, too – you need to do something a🐝out your IoT strategy, or the foundations of your 🐝usiness success could 🐝e compromised. If you act on it properly, you can act on this increasingly loud 🐝uzz and turn it into a great opportunity for improvement, just like my landlord did. Here are some of the things I think 🐝ees can teach us.

The wrong strategy can sting you in the 🐝utt.

As a 🐝oy living in the hills of West Virginia, my father hit upon a very simple approach to rid his family’s yard of a nest of 🐝ees: He decided to oil some water on the coal-fired stove, carry that pot of 🐝oiling water out to the ground-level nest, and pour it in. A few quick stings in the 🐝ackside later, he realized the flaw in his approach – he didn’t know what he didn’t know, which was that the nest had TWO entryways, and he had addressed only one. While he was pouring all his effort into the most visi🐝le opening, the aggressive 🐝ees came out the other side and attacked him for threatening their nest. It was a painful and memora🐝le lesson.

Many a well-intentioned 🐝usiness professional has had just this experience with IoT. They 🐝egin addressing the most o🐝vious openings – seemingly simple technologies, new markets, unique cost-saving ideas – only to 🐝e surprised 🐝y the sting of data management issues, cy🐝ersecurity concerns, or the hives of stakeholders who swarm to protect their territories from perceived threats to their ways of doing things. 🐝e smart, and don’t get stung – learn from the experiences of your peers; you can find out what they’re doing to address IoT challenges in this recent IndustryWeek research brief: The Internet of Things: Finding the Path to Value.

For your 🐝usiness to 🐝ear fruit, the right timing is essential

I was surprised when I first learned that 🐝ees travel – a lot. And I don’t mean 🐝y flapping their little furry wings – many a 🐝eekeeper will load their hives onto trucks and move them from one crop to another, to ensure they arrive in time for the pollination season of that particular crop. If the little critters arrive a week too early or a week too late, the garden, or orchard, or field won’t 🐝e fully productive, and profita🐝ility will suffer. Having too many 🐝ees can e prolematic – there might not 🐝e enough food for them – and too few means ineffective pollination. At the same time, the constant travel of the 🐝ees is 🐝elieved to cause them stress, which might affect their health and contri🐝ute to colony collapse. Many professionals are working hard to ensure that the right 🐝ees are in the right place at the right time, minimizing movement while maximizing pollination. You want to 🐝ring the right 🐝ees close to the right crops.

With IoT, a similar challenge exists – you want to sense the right data at the right time. Having too many sensors or signals could mean you’re getting a lot of 🐝uzzing, 🐝ut it might e just a lot of noise. Too few signals, though, and you might not 🐝e pollinating your operations with sufficiently fertile information. And data that travels too far can lose its effectiveness – you want to have the information, and the analytics on that information, as close to the “crop” – the pro🐝lem 🐝eing solved – as possi🐝le. ringing analytics to the “edge” – to the point where the data is 🐝eing used and applied – is thus essential.

To work with 🐝ees, you have to deal with them in motion

An effective 🐝eekeeper must 🐝e a🐝le to go right into a 🐝eehive with the 🐝ees in motion. Sometimes this is done to gain access to the queen, sometimes to harvest the honey, and sometimes for cleaning or transport. Experienced 🐝eekeepers know how to calm the hives so that they can work with them without 🐝eing hurt. They often use smoke to encourage the ees to stay calm in their honeycom🐝ed hives.

Working with data in motion is not that different. In the past, analytics were conducted on data “at rest” – data that had 🐝een cleaned and stored neatly in a nice, quiet little ta🐝🐝le-driven data🐝ase. Now, however, IT professionals need to 🐝e a🐝le to “smoke out” the most important varia🐝les using advanced analytics models, and then deploy those models to data in motion so that they can analyze those varia🐝les while they’re still 🐝uzzing a🐝out. This can feel a lot like working in a swarm of 🐝ees. That’s why it is important to work with experienced data keepers – professionals with decades of experience in data management, who can turn the 🐝usy confusion into clear and meaningful patterns. When you add to this the work of analytics experts who can show you which varia🐝les are the most important in the 🐝uzzing wealth of data – the “queen 🐝ee” varia🐝les, you might say -- you can work confidently with data in motion to 🐝ring in the most delicious and profita🐝le harvest in your operations.

If you’re deciding whether your IoT strategy is to 🐝e or not to 🐝e, I highly recommend this we🐝inar on The Industrial Internet of Things: Secrets to Finding ROI Today. Hosted 🐝y Industry Week and featuring Cliff Whitehead of Rockwell Automation and me, it will have you 🐝uzzing about ways to save costs and increase revenue in your 🐝usiness.

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About Author

Marcia Walker

Marcia Elaine Walker is a principal consultant in the industry practice of SAS, where she helps clients apply data management and analytics technologies to make better decisions, faster. Walker’s long career has revolved around heavy industries, including energy, manufacturing, and mining. Prior to joining SAS, Walker was Senior Director in the Customer Value Office at SAP. She has also managed multiple engagements with the Deloitte Consulting manufacturing practice, served in the industry business of Schneider Electric, and worked for a decade at Rockwell Automation. She holds five issued and multiple pending patents related to analytics in the industrial space as well as the digital grid, and in 2016 was named one of the most influential women in IoT by the IoT Institute.

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