The recent AWS re:Invent convention gave us great insight on what’s next for the IT industry. The message is very clear: get ready for the Internet of Things.
IoT refers to the technology wherein objects can gather and send usage data through a network of sensors, software, and wireless technology. It’s not just you who goes online anymore—it can be anything.
Imagine a refrigerator that can analyse its contents and warn you if some food has gone stale. Or perhaps a smart trashcan that can provide useful information, such as when the container needs to be emptied. Or a toothbrush that detects usage patterns and determines how well you are brushing your teeth. Or a smart camera that can analyse the composition of any object, and is useful for determining toxicity or contamination.
We’ve barely begun to scratch the surface with IoT. It’s already changing the medical field with wearable tech such as wristbands that monitor physical activity and sleep patterns to avert impending heart attacks.
While these all seems quite sci-fi is there an applicable business side to all this? Indeed, there is. IoT cars can detect driving patterns and determine how well users drive, which may have an impact on one’s insurance premium. In-store analytics can gather information on customer behavior and help determine what can make a sale. An electronic toothbrush that can communicate with the net might seem innocuous to some people, but not to dentists and toothbrush makers.
Even General Electric is instrumenting gas turbines through the AWS cloud in order to analyse their efficiency. After all, a change in efficiency of even just one or two points can have a dramatic effect in terms of profits. And there’s more to come—much more.
So if you’re thinking that IoT is just a passing fancy, consider that last year Cisco released a report stating that companies that adapted IoT have generated over $600 billion in profits. By 2020, they estimate that private industry stood to gain $14.4 Trillion. Moreover, back in the year 2000, it was estimated that connected devices numbered only around 200 million. According to Morgan Stanley, that number could grow to 75 billion by 2020.
IoT isn’t just another fad or buzzword: it’s an excellent way for enterprises to identify and understand the wants and needs of their customer base. If they haven’t done so yet, it’s time that customer-centric businesses look into IoT technology. It may not just improve your business—it might even transform it.
But where to begin?
The first thing to remember is that tools can only help if you know where to apply them. You’ll want to determine what particular business problem it is that you want to tackle. For example, do you want to:
- track customer history/behavior in order to predict decisions, and adjust accordingly?
- customise your product or service according to specific situations or customers?
- quickly scale production or resources according to customer demand or usage?
- develop products or services that better fit your clientele’s needs?
- identify blind spots in your business operations or your interactions with your customer base?
From there, you can determine how to leverage IoT technology.
Set up your Infrastructure
Having determined your specific business need, you need to come up with ways to collect, store, retrieve and analyse your data. Data is the key. It gives you a set of strategic options to choose from.
Assuming you are not creating sensors for your own IoT products, you’ll want to determine who owns the sensor infrastructure that gathers this data and forge strategic partnerships with them. Also consider that you will be dealing with a possible tidal wave of data. Your storage system must be scalable, able to handle gigabytes and petabytes of data as they come. After that, you also want to sift through that data and contextualize it. Several major tech companies such as Cisco, Amazon, and Microsoft are currently providing these services, with more cropping up each year.
Secure your Data
Due to the enormous amount of data being communicated by IoT, it’s inevitable that IT personnel must consider privacy and security risks for their clientele. Even as engineers and developers work together to create new and astounding IoT products and services, they must also include cybersecurity and data protection as vital to their designs. You will want to work with security experts, employ security best practices, create privacy policies, and work with clients to create a safe environment through shared responsibility.
Focus on Data Analytics
The raw data you obtain from IoT may not be suitable for analytics and needs to be transformed or contextualized for it to make sense. Only when this is done can you can pick the data apart for valuable business insights. Again this may not be easy unless you have the right kind of analytic tools.
One way to cut down on the time and capital expense needed to set up your tools is to partner up with services that already have the necessary infrastructure in place. Amazon Web Services provides such an integrated platform with their new IoT service.
AWS IoT allows users to easily connect IoT devices to useful AWS services. For example, if you want to store data gathered from your devices, you may connect to Amazon S3. AWS IoT solves the problem of security by providing mutual authentication and encryption at all connection points, so that no data can be communicated between devices and AWS IoT without proper identification. If you want to visualise the data, you can use Amazon QuickSight. Finally, AWS also has several data platforms, such as a RDS relational database, and its data analysis tool Kinesis, which can process streaming data in real-time.
Collaborate to Innovate
IT teams need to work with operational technology experts to come up with new ways to efficiently and accurately gather useful data, then use that data to come up with innovative solutions.
For example, engineers at Philips created CityTouch, an application wherein LED lights installed throughout the city can communicate with a central data center, which can monitor their efficiency and if they need replacing. The engineers have taken it a step further by also designing activators that can control the intensity and color of the lights, depending on the situation. Philips can then use these smart lights to guide people to certain events or destinations, such as a train station or a sports stadium.
We’ve just explored the fringes of what can be done with the Internet of Things. It’s a new country ripe for discovery. Don’t be late in getting into it, like some enterprises were for the smartphone revolution. Your business’s viability may rely on it.
Introducing AWS IoT
You can also find out more about the new AWS IoT service that was recently introduced at the AWS keynote earlier this month in the video below
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