The IoT goldmine hiding in plain sight: plugging a brain into billions of already connected devices

A connected world is not automatically a smarter world. Data must be digested to become intelligence. Connectivity must be harnessed to become action.

We’ve all heard that the world of connected devices is growing at a torrid pace. There are currently 4.9 billion connected devices around the world but in the next five years that number will grow to 25 billion, according to Gartner Research. But while device connectivity skyrockets, device intelligence lags far behind. Much of the world’s connected devices stream unused data to a distant database or server with little regard for what that data might mean to the device itself.

Think of Uber. Before Uber, thousands of cars with empty seats circulated throughout cities, and taxis drove in loops looking for the outstretched arm of a taxi-flagging pedestrian. But suddenly, the connectivity and mobile communication of millions of smartphones made this system intelligent. The ride-sharing potential turned Uber into a multi-billion-dollar company just from making a dumb system smart.

Just like Uber activated millions of connected smartphones to create a smart transportation system, new frameworks and software systems will unlock the value of the heaps of data already streaming from today’s connected devices, turning connected devices into smart devices.

Now think of the transformation industrial companies have made from dumb machinery to sensor-equipped connected devices. According to Fortune Magazine “many of the components on a modern oil platform are now connected; there are over 30,000 sensors on such a platform. But less than 1 percent of the data generated by these sensors are currently used for decision-making.”

What if the real opportunity is not in informing knowledge workers to make decisions, but enabling the devices themselves to make decisions? What if the other 99 percent of that data could be harnessed and converted to intelligence near the device? What leaps forward in machine intelligence and machine efficiency could be unlocked? And what if much of this efficiency could be created without human involvement?

Recently, we were involved in helping Cirrus Systems make a seemingly simple system — a mine traffic control system— dynamically intelligent. Working directly with the solution provider, we helped to architect and power a system that gave traffic priority to huge haul trucks that were ferrying mine ore between the mine pit and the mill. Standards traffic controls were very inefficient. Often, a fully loaded 400-ton haul truck would have to brake to a sudden stop at an intersection — creating a significant loss of fuel efficiency and consistent and unnecessary wear and tear on this expensive machinery.

The mine already had multiple sensors on each haul truck, measuring its load, engine performance and position. But that data simply streamed to a database. Onstream provided the framework to harness the data and make the traffic control intelligent. The sensors from approaching loaded haul trucks signaled the stoplight to change, allowing them to pass unimpeded, while making other vehicles safely stop.

Over a single year, the smart intersection created a much more efficient mine, reducing dangerous traffic patterns and significantly increasing the mine’s output.

This is just one small example of taking connected devices that are not benefitting from their connectivity, and generating autonomous reactions from that data.

Every tech publication and business magazine has been overwhelmed with articles on Big Data and the Internet of Things over the last several years. Accumulating and analyzing data is useful, but data alone holds limited value. It creates more work and increases costs for companies, including server and database costs, analytical software and services costs, and data analyst salaries.

The Internet of Things can help a company move from Big Data to Big Intelligence. Big Data might be an oil platform with 30,000 sensors streaming data, but using only one percent of it. Big Intelligence is plugging a brain into that data and unlocking autonomous action. This automated intelligence loop that requires no human involvement is where the true value is created — and it is right at the fingertips of thousands of networks of connected devices.

Image: Daniel DiMarco via Flickr.



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