Why Your Business Should Adopt a Strategy for The Internet of Things

September 13, 2016 Sam Rafuse

While the cloud is responsible for creating many new technologies, the Internet of Things (IoT) is not actually one of them. In itself, IoT is not a new concept. Microsoft claims that “almost 20 years ago, MIT professors described a world where ‘things’ (devices or sensors) are connected and able to share data”. However, the magnification in the abilities and the rate of adoption of the cloud has enabled clearer, quicker and easier access to larger volumes of data. In turn, this has sped up and increased the capabilities and awareness of technologies like IoT.

The rise and rise of IoT

The vast increase in the creation and storage of data has led to predictions from analysts IDC that “by 2020 the digital universe – the data we create and copy annually – will reach 44 zettabytes”. This total, which translates to 44 trillion gigabytes of data, has been made possible through the growth and expanding capabilities of cloud services like Microsoft Azure. Cloud solutions create infinite potential for IoT through enabling speed and ease in the interaction of data with devices and sensors – things – and the new data that it produces.
While ‘things’ is a somewhat equivocal term, its vagueness lends itself to the ambiguity and endless possibilities that the technology provides. While the concept of IoT is nearly 20 years old, its evolution has coincided and grown in accordance with the emergence of the cloud. In the past, IoT capabilities were fairly limited due to high hardware and connectivity costs. Nowadays, many factors such as the ease of scalability and comparatively cheap costs of the cloud, in addition to cheaper technology, cellular and internet access have helped create a “perfect storm” for IoT.

Awareness of IoT

The way in which the cloud has streamlined business processes and has led us into a cloud-first, mobile-first and data-led world has sparked intrigue surrounding the possibilities that the presentation and communication of big data can bring. These 44 zettabytes of data in the digital universe are not only made possible by the affordable scalability and flexibility of the cloud, but the cloud also presents the opportunity to produce fresh, new, actionable data by enabling IoT processes.

IoT is about making your things and the data they produce come together in new ways to uncover actionable intelligence, discover business insight and predict future outcomes. With IoT processes increasingly being adopted worldwide, research from analyst firm Gartner claims that there will be 6.4 billion connected “things” in 2016, with 5.5 million new things connected every day. By 2020, this is projected to reach 20.8 billion. These estimations are supported by Ericsson, whose research finds that IoT “is expected to surpass mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices in 2018”:

iot chart1

Reflected above, both cellular and non-cellular IoT are expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27 percent and 22 percent respectively between 2015 and 2021. In clearer terms, IoT is expected to make up 16 billion of the overall 28 billion forecasted connected devices – 57 percent of the total connected devices.
A straightforward reflection of the interest, intrigue and awareness of IoT can be presented through the vast increase in the volume of internet searches for the terms “internet of things” and “IoT” via their respective spikes in December 2013:

iot chart 2

How IoT will Transform Your Tomorrow

As Microsoft stated, “Data is only ones and zeros until you turn it into insights and business impact”. Visualizing and analyzing your data – your ones and zeros – with advanced analytics platforms like Power BI efficiently presents insights that previously may not have been visible. In addition, integrating your existing and new data from IoT processes with machine learning capabilities in the Azure IoT Suite can form historical data that in turn can be applied to provide insight to predict future trends and behavior.

Analysis from McKinsey Global Institute demonstrated that most IoT data is not used, though. However, “if policy makers and businesses get it right, linking the physical and digital worlds could generate up to $11.1 trillion a year in economic value by 2025”. Instead, a great deal of data is just ones and zeros without the insight and business impact brought about by IoT. An example of this is provided by McKinsey, where they claim an oil rig with 30,000 sensors only examines 1 percent of their data. The data itself is examined merely to detect and control anomalies as opposed to using them for their greatest value: optimization and prediction.

While oil rigs are not taking advantage of their own data, a business that is benefitting from it and gaining actionable insight is Acoustic Sensing Technology (AST). AST supply technology and analytical services to people who own drainage by providing notice and warning of impending floods to them. By sending sound signals down pipes into drainage, acoustic signatures are sent back to devices. These are then digitised and send data to a cloud-based platform designed by New Signature using the Azure IoT Suite. From here, AST can see if there is a problem that needs to be rectified and the data is stored in the cloud for future analysis and assessment. AST claim that 80 percent of the problems in the drainage industry occur on 20 perfect of the network. Through using IoT, they are able to locate the 80 percent of serviceable drainage and also find the 20 percent that requires attention.

New Signature and IoT

Microsoft’s view is that “instead of being bewildered by the huge universe of things made up of billions of assets, think about it as the Internet of Your Things”. New Signature has a wealth of experience in helping organizations transform their existing data, technology and assets while capturing, storing and analyzing freshly created data. Using the Azure IoT Suite, we can quickly produce applications which not only gather data, but manage and protect endpoints. By using Power BI, we can analyses and visualize your data in a form that presents actionable insights. Our experience with both IoT and the Azure cloud platform can help unlock new data that delivers real business benefits that create value.

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