Gaining value from the internet of things

The concepts of big data and the internet of things are already well established in the minds of both consumers and business leaders. Yet while the latest fitness app or home automation system may generate most attention, the real benefit is to be found in the industrial space.

And it is here that organisations need to move quickly to take advantage of the operational efficiencies and greater insight that come from having access to almost unlimited information feeds.

“The whole notion of operational technologies being able to track components has been around for some time,” says Dan Potter, vice president, product marketing, at Datawatch. “But what is really changing is the ability to put sensors on more devices and components along the product lifecycle.”

He gives the example of an oil business being able to monitor not only conditions on a well head, but anywhere along the pipeline, alerting individuals to any unexpected readings before problems develop.

Businesses that take advantage of the ability to collate and analyse data feeds can improve their processes, safeguard systems and even identify new business opportunities

However, this also brings with it challenges, including the need to extract the information that is truly important from all the other readings. “What you’re trying to find is where there’s a variation that is important to you,” says Mr Potter. “You might only want to be notified when a machine temperature hits 200 degrees, rather than when everything is fine – so you need to filter out all the things that aren’t important.”

Being able to assess the implications of information by comparing it to standard or historical readings is also important. “Sometimes that decision includes not just the context of that device, but the broader business context,” he says.

“If you have a steam turbine running a big generator and you find that one of the blades is showing signs of wear, you need to be able to make an intelligent business decision around when the right time is to shut it down. That’s where the analytics comes in; you need the operational data, but you also need to blend and merge it with other business-related information to make better decisions.”

Haj Muntz, head of Datawatch’s Europe, Middle East and Africa operation, says: “My philosophy is that the internet of things or IoT creates a great deal of noise. A solution like ours is essential to enable organisations to filter the noise and take effective action.

“It’s not enough to understand big data when trying to decide if there’s a business case for doing something. Smart people in smart organisations – people we talk to every day – are beyond that; it’s because IoT presents organisations with a scenario that is unprecedented in its potential to add value to its customers and carve out competitive advantage.

“Today, we’re helping organisations in fields as diverse as retail, manufacturing, trading capital markets, media and the NHS successfully leverage their competitive advantage – and improve their customers’ perceived value.

Businesses that take advantage of the ability to collate and analyse data feeds can improve their processes, safeguard systems and even identify new business opportunities.

Mr Potter concludes: “In many industries, the faster you can identify an opportunity and understand what to do with it, the bigger the impact it can have. This is something organisations need to be looking at now.”