When you piece together how you will use IoT to create new economic value for your business there are a lot of different possibilities. To get your creative juices flowing think about IoT as “action at a distance”. With the communications infrastructure we have in so many parts of the world, distance doesn’t matter. Issues of latency aside, it doesn’t matter if the device you want to work with is across the room or halfway around the world. And with high speed processing, big data technologies, and machine learning, once you have your tools in place what you can do with the data from your devices is only limited by your imagination.
To get your creativity going, I am going, I will describe several different IoT applications:
Let’s say we are the Coca-Cola Company and we are rolling out those great new soda fountains across the world. We would want to be able to monitor the fountains’ health, and also keep tabs on our supply of syrup and carbonation canisters for each machine. And why stop there? We can integrate this into our supply chain and prioritize machine services and connect our supply chain to our inventory data so that our customers never run out, and for some reason, that machine is just always working. More, because we can look at the use data from each user, and because we are using machine learning understand the crazy mixes that they make we are learning more and more about our customers and creating new products based on that learning.
Or maybe we are running a farm and facing draught. Water is precious and so is our crop yield. Imagine that we deploy low power, low cost sensors that monitor soil conditions that wake up every day allow us to make a map of where we need irrigation and where we don’t. We would also want to pull weather data into our calculations of when and where to water and how much. We can extend our sensor capability to detect where we need fertilizer as we plan the next crop. We can also can run localized experiments with irrigation, fertilizer, and seed and see the results of our trials. This all works so well that we decide to outfit our tractors and harvesting equipment to protect our capital equipment and remove further cost from our operation.
Perhaps we are in the shipping business and sometimes we ship large and expensive products that we want to track to their destination. Now we can. We attach a GSM module that periodically wakes up (to minimize power use) and shows us its location, temperature, any shocks or impacts that have been received. We can design our tracking software to alert us if the shipment goes outside of a “geo-fence” that the software itself “guessed” appropriate, alert us of any problems in route, and also indicate safe arrival.
We could be a running a pool equipment distribution and installation business and want to outshine competitors by coming up with a creative service to monitor our equipment and create cost savings for our customers. We could work with with and IoT specialist to install a sensor set and cellar connectivity kit that monitors the equipment and provides us as well as the customer with equipment stats and email alerts for problems. We can even provide the customer with a smartphone app to monitor or control the equipment. With a little research we can even add sensors to alert the owner when it is time to clean the filter. We can provide these kind of IoT solutions for HVAC, solar installations, for residential and commercial applications.
If we are Apple or Samsung, and we want to connect all of our in-home devices to better understand how our customers use our devices. Do they use broadcast TV? Do they use Netflix? Are the “web services” in the TV ever used at all? With the customer’s permission, all of this data is hugely valuable to us, and with devices that are “smart” already, this is relatively easy to do.
Perhaps we are a security company and we recognize that our current consumer and industrial solutions are very clumsy and hard to use. We have seen what competitors are starting to do with IoT and see the possibilities for our business and for our customers.
If we were running a medical device company we would be looking for ways to make our devices smarter, better monitor our patients’ health, and seamlessly connect with back end systems.
There are so many alternatives. With IoT technologies we can enhance security in many ways with IoT. We can use IoT to connect our suppliers to our business. We can make patients more healthy and safe with medical IoT. We can capture data about our customers as they shop in our stores. We are only limited by our imaginations.
With some amount of brainstorming most of us will find that IoT solutions can improve their profitability, pave the way to new products, better connect them with customers, or make their competition virtually irrelevant. And, deploying IoT need not be hard to do. Certainly, there is learning and some investment involved, and it helps tremendously to work with a team that knows the IoT technologies, tools and the supplier, hardware and software ecosystem. Next we look at what it takes to build an IoT MVP, or minimum viable product. Then we will look at a few scenarios of our to deploy a complete IoT system.