According to a 2013 report conducted by the Economist, 96 percent of survey respondents expect their business to be using the Internet of Things (IoT) in some respect by 2016. But there’s a big difference between adding sensors to items and fully harnessing the power of IoT through real-time data insights.
Real-time data from connected devices can serve a vital function in improving business operations. While “historic data” can teach us about the past and provide a roadmap to the future, it is static. “Big Data,” however, is about data “in motion” — that is, capturing what’s occurring right now, which allows companies to react in real time to control expenses and maximize their investments in IoT.
Real-time data improves businesses’ bottom lines by allowing them to:
- Track assets. According to a report from Business Insider on “The Internet of Everything 2015,” 38 percent of respondents said that connected devices improved use of assets in the field. Using sensors to track RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags placed on products allows companies to improve their inventory management and ensures that assets aren’t lost, stolen or mis-deployed. For examples, companies that rent shipping pallets embedded with an asset tag know that they can track their valuable assets in real time, to continuously monitor the condition, location and movements of the pallet and its contents.
- Receive automated alerts. Want to know more about what’s going on with your assets that are in the field right this minute? Automated alerts allow companies to automatically track changes in such variables as temperature, pressure or location. GE is an early adopter – it now offers predictive maintenance and optimization services for more than $1 trillion worth of Internet-connected industrial equipment, ranging from medical equipment to jet engines.
- Avert breakdowns. It’s impossible to underestimate the negative effect that breakdowns have on business as the wasted time and employee resources wreak havoc on a company’s bottom line. Deploying IoT technology can allow companies to track changes in a machine’s key indicators that can often allow them to head off breakdowns before they happen. In another example from GE, an offshore oil rig operator was able to detect changes in production performance data that allowed it to replace the part proactively, thus saving an estimated $7.5 million in lost production.
- Reduce scheduled maintenance costs. Real-time data also allows companies to reduce the costly practice of call-outs by only deploying maintenance workers when they are needed, rather than on a set schedule. The Business Insider report found that manufacturers see the IoT as way to keep factories running smoothly: 62 percent use sensor data to monitor product performances and 49 percent use it to maintain and repair products.
- Increase safety. It would be hard to identity a more important data insight than averting safety hazards. Real-time data through connected cars is rapidly becoming a best practice in fleet management. It allows companies to track the progress of each vehicle to assist with scheduling; determine which drivers are engaging in risky behavior, whether it’s varying from an accepted route or driving recklessly; or verifying that vehicles are in top condition through remote diagnostics. In another example, a construction site in Dubai is utilizing sensor-based data to prevent cranes and construction vehicles from colliding. The sensors track location, load weight, equipment usage and wind speed to improve safety.
- Improve business strategies. By aggregating data over time, astute companies will start to see trends and correlations. Most companies don’t suffer from a lack of data – the bigger problem is what to do with all the data that is being accrued. In fact, a study by IoT analytics company ParStream found that most challenges cited in IoT projects revolved around the data. While the majority of projects involve data collection (83 percent), only eight percent of the respondents are actively capturing and analyzing that data in a timely manner. And 86 percent report that faster and more flexible analytics would help increase the ROI of IoT investments.
The East Coast just experienced its harshest winter in years, providing a perfect example of how analyzing real-time data could improve a business’ performance. Whether you manufacture socks, snow shovels or soup, a smart company would want to aggregate weather patterns, stock realities and truck locations to redeploy shipments to the consumers who are depending on their products.
In another example, Dependable Auto Shippers (DAS), the largest vehicle relocation company in the United States, has been able to use sensor-driven IoT technology to collect data that the company can mine to improve strategies. Shipping as many as 4,000 vehicles throughout the country at a single time, DAS must constantly track the location of each vehicle until it reaches its final destination and monitor the vehicle’s condition to ensure it hasn’t been damaged in transit. By integrating real-time data, DAS has been able to identify issues, such as training or equipment failures that lead to frequent problems at certain terminals, and can take proactive measures to improve its processes where flaws have been identified.
Companies can analyze the data to identify correlations – to determine how measurements are related. A report from Gigaom offers the example of being able to understand that a server is likely to saturate when the I/O measurements rapidly spike up and down. By identifying a pattern, they discover how to view and process measurements in real time to avoid a breakdown.
As the Gigaom report says, “In today’s digital economy, the timeliness of data can turn it from an artifact into an asset, and then into currency that drives business innovation, provides competitive advantages, and transforms data into incremental revenue opportunities.”
Organizations that have deployed machine-to-machine (m2m) or IoT devices and data into their organization will increasingly find business value in harnessing the power of real-time data analytics to improve their bottom line through smart deployment of resources, asset tracking, analysis-based strategic pivots and more.