Creating your own Internet of Things (IoT) network will often be fraught with difficulty. Crucially you’ll need to understand how to drive value and insights, from a vast array of new data sources. In this blog I want to share five tips when implementing the IoT to solve your business challenges.
In general terms, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of physical objects that collects data and shares that data via the internet. Or to put it another way, it represents the blending of the physical and the digital worlds.
While the concept of the IoT has been around for quite a while (indeed the term was first seen in 1999), it is only recently that it has become cheap enough for organizations to realistically consider. From the open-source platform Arduino, to the affordable Raspberry PI, to the myriad of low-cost sensors now available, the technologies underpinning the IOT are now available at a price point which makes their implementation realistic. These technologies also enable companies to prototype and test solutions on smaller budgets, before investing in the final device production.
Remember, the key point and promise of the IoT is to drive innovation via the data and insights generated by connecting physical objects to the internet.
However, while the IoT offers tremendous potential, many organizations struggle with creating value from all the data generated. So here are my tips for taking advantage of the IoT to solve your business challenges:
- Map your problem. Analyze the problems you have. Track and divide all of them into subproblems, identifying dependencies, shared resources, repeated subproblems, etc. You will end up with a problem map, where for example you will be able to see the key resources, bottlenecks, busy times. This forms the basis of your future decision-making, before you even start thinking about how the IoT may be able to help.
- Create indexes and store everything. From your problem map, identify the data you currently have, the data required, and where gaps are. This gap analysis will form the basis for your future IoT implementation (we won’t cover the actual IoT implementation in this blog post). Create indexes combining the data to find meaningful information and store everything, both raw data and indexes. For instance, units processed over time, time spent between machines in a production line.
- Dashboard it. We don’t take decisions based on data, we take decisions based on information and insight. Group the data and indexes in a dashboard to create a real-time view. One of the main applications of the IoT is that it enables you to view and analyze the real-time status of devices and machinery based on sensor-generated data.
- Control your IoT network. Don’t forget you now have devices sensing and transmitting data. A good way to control your devices is to build status report functionality to let you proactively see whether a specific device is working effectively. But note here it is more than knowing whether the devices are running correctly, but also knowing if the devices are sensing and transmitting properly. A non-detected failure in a sensor could drive the device to transmit and report erroneous data that will affect the dashboard.
- Secure everything. Maybe this is the most important tip. Always keep the device connections inside your private network. Don’t expose any device directly to the internet. There are device search engines, like Shodan, typically used by hackers, to infiltrate companies` security by exploiting devices with either low security or which are misconfigured. And in most scenarios, devices have a low security profile, since they are meant for internal use only, or they lack the ability to detect when they are being attacked.
I hope these tips help you with your IoT implementation, and prioritize what really matters to create value and insight. Do you have others tips to share?