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Who needs the internet of things and why

Data has value. Combined data has more value. The data pent up in the “things” of the internet of things will promote bringing more data together from more sources than has ever been achieved in human history. If your company doesn’t have an IoT strategy, consider getting one. For a good brief on IoT and its value, take a look at my other blogs.

A key moment in time

Boards of directors and CEOs that were questioning executives about PCs in the 80’s, internet and ecommerce in the 1990s, mobility and cell phones in the 2000s, and data centers and cloud computing in the 2010s, are today asking about the internet of things. Ignoring their interest isn’t likely to end well, considering how complex IoT can be — and how it will be essential for competing in the digital economy.

IoT: Everything you want it to be

Definitions of IoT vary for the same reason that everyone’s experience with IoT varies based on what the types of devices to which they connect, and what data they extract as a result. Pulling temperature data from a thermostat and activity logs from a furnace isn’t the same as tracking the flow of oil on an offshore drilling platform.

And those are just two examples. Thousands more are out there, adding to the rich diversity of IoT. This year alone, Gartner says that we can expect 6.4 billion things to be actively connected — a 30% increase over 2015’s total. Moving fast to glean value from the resulting streams of data should be a top priority for most global businesses. The big questions are how to do it and where to leverage it.

The first of these two questions can be tough and requires some detailed explanation concerning device connectivity, the type and variety of data, the networks, and the process of digitizing what is primarily analog information for the physical world.

Reasons your business should leverage IoT

Experienced enterprises are building platforms to handle the complexity of it all. Not surprisingly, we’re serving a diverse set of use cases and benefits such as predictive maintenance.

Consider offshore oil platforms receiving regular upgrades and repair whether they need it or not. Why? Safety requirements and cost avoidance demand that companies take necessary precautions with industrial equipment. So, in the absence of data to the contrary, energy companies order maintenance to keep crews and the environment safe. Now, if that same equipment were under constant sensor surveillance with data collected and analyzed regularly, more efficient and precise repair suddenly becomes possible. This can avoid both types of errors — withholding maintenance when it’s really needed, and performing maintenance when it’s not needed.

Farming is a tough business. Generally, every once in a while we rely on a medical doctor, a lawyer or a repair person. But every day we rely on farmers. Successful farming can be largely based on gut feel and experience. What if it didn’t have to be that way? Consider what I like to call “Agriculture 3.0” — farm tractors and equipment imbued with instrumentation and computer systems that place fertilizer with the precision of a lab pharmacologist could also read data from moisture sensors in the fields, adjusting doses as it travels? Mother Nature would still have her say during the planting season, of course, but the odds of a more optimal crop yield at the time of reaping would also increase dramatically.

There are many other internet of things benefits, and many more will emerge as time goes on. These will be seen as more business leaders answer the question raised by the “perpetual connectivity” of IoT. What could your business do if your product, location, assets, people and customers (things) that embody value were perpetually connected to each other and to a central system? What would you do first?

That we can even ask those questions today speaks volumes for how far we’ve come since the 1980s. From the PC revolution to the cloud to smartphones, data centers and finally IoT, there’s a never-ending sea of valuable information that is becoming available to smart business leaders.

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