What the Internet of Things can do for you

internet of things
Credit: ITworld/Steve Traynor

A look at the IoT market, two examples of innovative IoT technologies and potential risks as the market develops

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Industry analysts (like me) predict accelerating growth in IoT over the coming years. Research studies from both Gartner -- who has named IoT the second biggest technology trend for 2015 -- and IDC -- who predicts IoT will be a $7.1 trillion market by 2020 -- suggest that 2015 will usher in a broad range of IoT applications and services which will benefit both businesses and individuals.

By collecting sensor data from "smart" devices ranging from refrigerators and home alarm systems to vehicle electrical systems and  industrial equipment to medical devices and defense systems in the "connected battlefield," IoT has the potential to help us make smarter, more informed decisions in all aspects of our life.

A report published by Capgemini Consulting, "The Internet of Things: Are Organizations Ready for a Multi-Trillion Dollar Prize?" suggests that there are three levels of maturity for IoT solutions.

  1. Basic Support Information - a device provides alerts or updates (a wash cycle in washing machine has completed).
  2. Remote Operability Support - a device can be activated remotely (a home alarm system can be turned on from work using your mobile phone.)
  3. Performance Improvement Support - devices collect and analyze information that can provide predictive maintenance or lead to enhancements that provide better quality products with additional features.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of IoT vendors in the third category, who not only collect device data, but also offer innovative solutions that analyze real-time sensor data to provide valuable insight.

The Buddy Platform

Buddy Platform, Inc. (Buddy) recently launched Buddy Platform, a comprehensive IoT solution that enables businesses to capture, store, display and query data collected from their "smart" devices - answering questions such as "how many General Motors vehicles have been driven today in Massachusetts?"

Once collected, data is easily integrated into popular Business Intelligence (BI) tools including Splunk, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and others. Device data is captured easily, by adding just a few lines of code (HTTP calls) to a device’s firmware, with no agents required and no additional specialized firmware. This means that businesses can easily collect and analyze data about their product's use and performance without extensive programming or configuration changes.

By enabling businesses to see how their devices are performing in real-time, as well as enabling data analysis, businesses can provide better customer service and higher-quality products. For example, automobile manufacturers can collect data from a vehicle’s brake system that can proactively identify an issue before something goes wrong, improving safety. This benefits the automobile manufacturer too – enabling a fix to the problem before having to implement a costly recall.

SpaceCurve

SpaceCurve offers a spatial data platform  with the scale and performance required for big data systems and spatial data including spatial, sensor, “Internet of things,” mobile device, social media and other streaming and historical data sources.  SpaceCurve is optimized to handle streaming sensor data with spatial and time series attributes (such as location) to enable  data-driven, real-time analysis and immediate action. SpaceCurve also provides a foundation for correlating additional data sources that will reveal patterns and trends over time. [Disclosure: SpaceCurve is a client of Clabby Analytics.]

For example, historic aircraft sensor data can be combined and correlated with data collected in real-time to understand current context and provide adjustments based on real-time conditions. With this information, the flight plan and/or aircraft settings can be updated based on environmental changes (weather, flight delays, airport conditions etc.).

Good news, bad news…?

While it is easy to see that IoT can offer many benefits to individuals, consumers and businesses, it doesn’t take long to recognize that collecting all this information has a downside too. This is particularly concerning when it comes to the “connected home” or the “connected patient” where very sensitive and personal data is collected and may be exposed to hackers. I often hear the example of the “smart” refrigerator that can tell you when you need to buy milk. Do we really want our refrigerators collecting information about what and how much we consume? Do we want sensitive information about our medical conditions to be gathered and stored by the manufacturer of a medical device?

Because of these issues, IoT has garnered attention recently in political circles with FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez speaking about privacy issues at International CES as well as the recent formation of the Congressional Caucus on the Internet of Things.

Summary

IoT adds another dimension to the big data discussion – more data can mean better, more informed decisions, improved customer satisfaction, higher-quality products and more efficient service and support. But the collected data must be correlated and analyzed in real-time, and take into account relationships between data sources. Both Buddy Platform and SpaceCurve are examples of solutions that can analyze device data in real-time, providing value to customers in a broad range of industries including manufacturing, healthcare and defense.

As the market for IoT accelerates, so too will concerns about privacy and security. But this really isn’t a new issue -- it just means that there are more data sources and more data being collected. And I expect that security concerns raised by the proliferation of IoT will fuel the discussion about cybersecurity in general, leading to important reforms that will better protect all of our personal data.

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