The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to be more than just the sum of its parts. When intelligent systems are made accessible to the masses and devices are connected into one large ecosystem, users and organisations can benefit from tracking and analysing data transmitted from these devices to improve lives.
The IoT wave has been around in the industrial sense for years. While in the past the technology had been expensive, proprietary and mostly embedded into large machines, IoT today is about making intelligent, every day systems that is accessible to the masses.
A number of market trends are converging to make the modern-day IoT a reality with research firm Gartner predicting that there could be 25 billion connected devices by 2020.
The potential for IoT is undeniably immense. According to research firm Frost & Sullivan, Malaysia is one of the fastest growing IoT markets in Asean and APAC with an estimated spending of US$70mil (RM263.3mil) in 2014. This figure is estimated to reach US$447mil (RM1.6bil) by 2017, growing at a CAGR of 111.5% from 2013.
Falling hardware prices, increased wireless coverage and advances in analytics are enabling new solutions that use information from non-traditional sources to improve our lives. The benefits are already being realised today by organisations across various industries, especially in the manufacturing and healthcare sectors.
Forward-thinking businesses are already considering how to leverage data from non-traditional sources with customised technology for increased competitiveness. In India, for example, one technologically advanced dairy farm, Chitale Dairy, has created a “connected cows” concept. When the farm experienced low milk yields, it tracked every cow through RFID tags and sent the data about each cow back to the data centre for analysis.
The new information enabled farmers to use their mobile phones to obtain more data about each animal and create custom interventions for individual cows, ultimately increasing milk yields.
While milk yields might not be a concern for most companies, businesses of all sizes can benefit from taking an IoT-related approach to their business challenges. One way would be to capture data that is readily available, but to do it over a longer period.
For a property management office looking to reduce power bills, for example, recording temperature and humidity on a 24 x 7 basis over several weeks could yield new insights about peak occupancy periods that can help them identify when to turn off the central air-conditioning system.
Another way would be to capture data that is not typically recorded through ad hoc data analysis and research.
Capturing the data is just one step in the whole IoT journey. There has to be enough storage to accommodate that data, and an effective network to convey that data to computers powerful enough to analyse it. The data has to be protected, secured, and personal details kept private in accordance with prevailing laws. The entire system has to be managed and monitored well to ensure it performs well at all times.
Success hinges on effective data analysis. Data is meaningless until meaningful insights are extracted from it. Last but not least, companies have to be prepared to follow through on the data, first analysing it, and then formulating effective actions from the results.
In order to lead successful IoT projects, organisations should:
Build on existing investments, and expand in areas that the business is already familiar with.
Design a standards-based IoT solution that maximises interoperability so that more data can be collected. Proprietary protocols will also work to connect IoT devices, but could lock users into a narrow range of IoT solutions.
Implement robust analytics solutions and involve highly skilled data scientists. There are few data scientists available for hire for now, and training existing staff may be the way to go.
Ensure the solution has built-in growth capacity. In our experience the solutions tend to grow as users realise the advantages they bring.
Work with partners which have end-to-end OEM capabilities, security offerings, and a good understanding of how existing hardware works together. Consider partners with memberships in the Industrial Internet Consortium, the Open Interconnect Consortium and the Intel IoT Solution Alliance, and which also maintain partnerships with key thought leaders for electronics.
Today, small-scale IoT implementations can already provide businesses with insights that can make operations more efficient, suggest potential revenue streams, and enhance the customer experience. With the right planning and execution, companies could well gain a significant competitive advantage from what the IoT can offer.
Glen Burrows is the general manager of Dell OEM Solutions, Asia-Pacific and Japan.