The Internet of Things (IoT) is now big business and there are expected to be 55.7 billion connected devices worldwide by the end of 2025, of which 75% will be connected to an IoT platform.
For many people, classic examples like internet-connected fridges still pop to mind when talking about IoT. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. For businesses, the range of data-gathering devices they now have access to is truly staggering.
From monitoring the status of industrial equipment to keeping an eye on your supply chain or managing your facilities, IoT offers businesses insights and control over their operations they've never had before. But this only applies if companies know how to use it.
The potential hidden within your IoT network
IoT can provide you with a huge range of benefits. Whether it's better insights into what your customers are doing, up-to-the-minute tracking info for your distribution network, or enabling predictive maintenance on key machinery to reduce downtime, the data you collect can be put to great use to boost productivity, cut costs and improve decision-making.
Some of the most common uses for IoT data within enterprises include:
- Improved automation for key processes
- Better use of assets and resources
- Better connectivity and access to information
- Improved workplace safety
- Greater employee efficiency
- Better customer service and retention
- Smarter, better informed future planning
But in order to realize this value, it's not enough to have the right IoT devices in place to create data. You also need to know how to tap into this and turn it into usable insight. And this is often easier said than done.
The factors that impact the value of your IoT data
To get IoT strategies working effectively, the key focus must be how you handle the data itself. Cisco’s Product Marketing Manager for IoT, Edge and Data Vernon Turner identifies three key factors that must be considered when working with IoT data in order to maximize the business value of any deployment. These are:
- How often data is read - The more you use your data, the more value you'll get from it. Therefore, it's vital you're sharing your IoT insight as widely as possible and putting it to use in different scenarios.
- How much data is read - Similarly, the more overall data you have, the more opportunities will be available and the more accurate your insight will be. For example, adding environmental factors such as temperature and humidity to factory floor sensors can tell you about how external conditions affect the performance of equipment, giving you a much more complete picture than if you're just monitoring the machinery itself.
- How quickly it's read - Much of the real-time data captured by IoT devices will quickly become outdated and irrelevant if it's not analyzed quickly. Exactly how fast will depend on the use case - some situations will demand an instant response, whereas others may still work with data created within the hour, or even the last day. It's therefore vital to know which is which so you're not overlooking anything or expending resources unnecessarily.
4 steps to enhance your IoT value
Once you know what you need to do with your data, the next step becomes ensuring you're able to achieve this. When it comes to data collection and processing, there are a few things you'll need to keep in mind in order to derive business value from the raw info.
1. Know what data you're gathering
Step one should be to have a complete understanding of exactly what data you're collecting, both in terms of its structure and what it can tell you. Ensuring that this is in a usable format is paramount - some IoT sensors may provide a clear, rigid structure, while others may need cleansing or transformation before the data can be analyzed.
2. Use visualizations to identify patterns
Pattern analysis is a clear goal of many IoT strategies. While there are a range of AI and machine learning tools to help with this, sometimes a human touch is still essential. To do this properly, effective visualization tools are a must. These let you spot any anomalies or other interesting trends at a glance - provided you're presenting the data in the right format.
3. Deploy advanced analytics
Big data analytics offers more than just a way to get your huge volumes of newly-generated IoT data under control. A good analytics tool will let you compare the real-time data you're getting from your IoT devices with existing historical information. This will provide a more complete picture of what's going on within the business and let you determine the impact any changes may have.
4. Embrace AI
The amount of information your IoT devices create will become too much for you to handle manually, so investing in AI-powered automation tools will be necessary. This is especially the case if you want to adjust devices quickly in response to changing conditions. If you can set up AI solutions to look for specific trigger points and react accordingly, you can turn monitoring tools into actions that offer instant results without having to wait for human intervention.