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IoT offers industrial, consumer opportunities

Nov. 28, 2016
Rick Nelson,
Executive Editor

The Internet of Things is offering opportunities on a variety of fronts—from consumer electronics to industrial applications. Connections Europe, held in November in Amsterdam and hosted by Parks Associates, examined the IoT, smart home, and connected consumer. In the run-up to the event, Stuart Sikes, the research firm’s president, said, “The smart-home concept is expanding across Europe as consumers explore new energy management, security, and connected-entertainment solutions in the IoT. Parks Associates anticipates steady growth over the next few years in key smart home and IoT categories, including security, smart light bulbs, thermostats, and energy.” Data released by the firm shows that thermostats are the most popular smart-home devices in the United Kingdom while networked security cameras have the highest rate of adoption in Germany, France, and Spain.

Highlighting industrial applications, ADLINK, IBM, and Intel introduced the Vortex Edge PMQ predictive analytics hardware and software at IBM World of Watson 2016 in Las Vegas. Vortex Edge PMQ includes ADLINK’s Intel-processor-based smart-gateway and industrial-server hardware, ADLINK subsidiary PrismTech’s real-time data-connectivity software, and IBM’s Predictive Maintenance and Quality (PMQ) analytics.

In a preview event in Boston the week before the formal introduction, Toby McClean, chief solutions architect at PrismTech, said Vortex Edge PMQ is the result of an initiative undertaken in conjunction with the IBM Innovation Factory. PrismTech, he said, “… joined the Innovation Factory to bring cognitive analytics capability to where it makes the most sense—and that is not necessarily the cloud.”

Vortex Edge PMQ can serve in industrial, automotive, underground-mining-equipment, intelligent wireless-tower management, and rail-equipment performance-monitoring applications, among others.

At the Boston event, Sam Ransbotham, associate professor in the Information Systems Department at the Carroll School of Management, Boston College, and guest editor for MIT Sloan Management Review’s “Big Idea: Data & Analytics” initiative, delivered a keynote address titled “Ready or not, here IoT comes.”

He cited six questions you must address when embarking on an IoT project:

  • Are you ready for security? You need to consider confidentiality but also integrity (without which an attacker can gain unauthorized access—for example, by “unlocking your door”) and availability (without which an attacker can prevent you from unlocking your own door).
  • Are you open to sharing? IoT implementations do not work well in isolation—you need to share data with your customers, suppliers, and even competitors.
  • What if you have too much data? You might face a dog-catches-car problem—“If you are looking for a needle in a haystack, the last thing you need is more hay,” he said.
  • Can you consume as well as produce data? For most organizations, production sophistication exceeds consumption sophistication.
  • Can you tell could from should? You need to establish ethical processes around
    your analytics.
  • Can you scale? Each additional user costs nothing, and value is driven by the square of the number of users (per Metcalfe’s law).

Also speaking at the Boston event, Rob Risany, global innovation executive, IBM Watson IoT, commented, “A race to the bottom can only take you so far.” Efforts to cut costs quickly lead to diminishing returns and represent only part of the puzzle. “Operational excellence is everyone’s business,” he said, and the edge is where value is created.

“If you can’t control the edge, you can’t capture value,” he said. “The IoT gives you access to the edge. The purpose of analytics is to give you the context to see the edge and seize control. ‘Things’ become your supply chain.”

He concluded with a warning: if a single company claims to be able “… to solve your problem, run!” IBM views IoT as an ecosystem play, he emphasized, which it addresses through its Innovation Factory incubator in conjunction with partners.

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