One of the best parts of my job is hearing about all the cool ways people are using data for good. Increasingly, many of these stories are related to the Internet of Things, including:
- Smart pills that help patients stick to their treatment regimens. These ingestible sensors can monitor patients’ usage of a medicine as well as its effectiveness.
- Tiny devices that ride on honeybees to solve the mystery behind their declining populations. They can record a bee’s time and distance away from the hive, monitor its diet and the weather, and record its exposure to pesticides and pollution.
- Even tinier sensor chips that monitor the lungs of babies in pediatric intensive care. These work by monitoring pressure change, a common measurement of physical condition.
Seems like every day there’s an ingenious new way to collect data and generate insights. There’s a lot of excitement about IoT, and rightly so.
Yet the concept itself is not new; industries like energy and manufacturing have been using sensors for a long time. What is new is the pervasiveness of connected devices – their number is skyrocketing, to the point that we now have far more devices than people. Think of all the devices in your own home and multiply that times all the consumers in the world, then add in industrial devices and high-value assets like trucks and planes, and you start to get an idea of the explosion in available data.
Another thing that’s new is our ability to perform analysis and make decisions right at the edge. Sensors, device networks, compute and storage are rapidly expanding in speed and power, converging to create a much stronger ability to make sense of data as it flows.
So how do we capitalize on this opportunity? By making it about more than one patient or one bee, and focusing our energy on the network effect. Economies are driven by value, and in the analytics economy, the IoT’s value comes at scale. Using our smart pill example, which improves treatment one patient at a time, imagine the impact to global health care costs when all patients get more effective and efficient care. We can capture this kind of value – if we put analytics where the data is (and not the other way around). Connected doesn’t mean intelligent, and connectivity alone doesn’t add value. Analytics drive value in the Internet of Things.
A different take on the IoT
So I submit that we should be thinking less about the Internet of Things, and more about the Intelligence of Things. If we want to make the IoT work for our advantage, and turn the chatter of machines into something that really matters, we need to add more intelligence to this connected world. We need to infuse analytics into our systems and applications, because collecting data alone is not enough. If all we do is gather and store, we run the risk of creating “digital attics” – large stockpiles of data that we know is there, but rarely use. And if your attic looks like most, you know that’s not an optimal state.
One solution here is intelligent filtering. Because IoT data is characterized by noise, perhaps 1 percent of it is suitable for analysis, and the rest is just chatter. For instance, the town of Cary, NC has wireless water meters, but neither the town nor homeowners like me need to know exact water usage figures every single hour. We only need to know when that usage departs from the norm. Analytics help us determine what data to keep, what to aggregate, and what to throw away. But the Intelligence of Things is more than simple filtering; it’s complex logic that cleanses, compresses, considers changing variables and more. The goal is to eliminate latency, so there is no time gap between the data and the decisions.
If we’re going to unlock value by pushing these decisions to the edge, we’re going to need an environment that’s truly open. And that’s precisely the goal of industry organizations like the Industrial Internet Consortium and the IoT Community (SAS is an active member of both). It’s also the impetus for SAS’ partnerships with Intel and Cisco. With Intel, we’ve been able to validate technical architectures and market solutions across industries. Together with Cisco, we released the Edge-to-Enterprise IoT Analytics Platform, the industry’s first backed by a Cisco Validated Design. We are excited to help our customers make real-time decisions based on their IoT data.
Developments like these have so much potential; I could evangelize for days about the bright future ahead. I’m definitely encouraging our customers to come on out to the edge. It’s exciting out here, and the opportunity stretches as far as you can see.
If you recognize the potential and want to learn more, visit the SAS IoT page, read A Non-Geek’s A-to-Z Guide to the Internet of Things, or check out my session from Analytics Experience last week. It features a discussion with Garret Fitzgerald of GE Transportation, who explained how his company is using the power of IoT analytics to completely reshape its business. Garret and I will be reprising and expanding upon that talk at the IoT Solutions World Congress on Oct. 4 and at Analytics Experience in Amsterdam on Oct. 18. Be sure to stop by the SAS booth if you plan to be in Barcelona.