The IoT Tidal Wave is Here! Are You Ready?

By BDO Digital| July 27, 2015

We are now fully immersed in the information age. Organizations large and small are swimming (and some sinking) in data! When I started my business intelligence (BI) career, the data was mostly trapped in systems and retrieving that data was a fairly straightforward task. Today, new and interesting data challenges crop up out of all kinds of unexpected places.

Though not a new idea, the rise of the “Internet of Things” or IoT is an emerging challenge for analytics. But is there value in IoT data?

Early IoT Beginnings

Way back in the early ‘90s I got my first exposure to IoT (when it wasn’t called IoT). I was in college at North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND and my father was growing his electrical contracting business into some new markets. One of those new markets was potato warehouse storage systems. These warehouses were typically very large and situated in the middle of nowhere out in the Red River Valley of ND. It was not practical to have human resources manually monitoring these systems, so automation was absolutely necessary.

To guarantee a quality product and ensure that spuds harvested in September could be stored until June required a fair amount of instrumentation and technology. In particular, these warehouse systems needed to monitor and regulate temperature, humidity, and airflow. Enter the precursor to IoT. At the time I really didn’t grasp how important and pervasive this type of technology would become. I can still remember my dad checking on his systems with his laptop and 9600 baud modem, running reports on temperature and humidity and marking remote adjustments to ensure storage conditions.


Why I Should Care About the Internet of Things?

IoT data is large, in many cases extremely redundant, and often unstructured in its root form. But there is value there, and organizations committed to analytics and business intelligence should be taking note, or at the very least, taking stock of what is out there. Most organizations don’t have unlimited IT budgets to see if there is value in the latest BI trend. Decision makers need to be pragmatic about IoT data. When my clients ask about IoT, I always suggest that they start with these discovery topics:

  • Catalog your sources
  • What data do you have, can you have and should you have from candidate IoT sources?
  • Assuming that this data can be accessed, stored and possibly transformed, will there be any business value to this data.
  • What decisions and levers can I pull with access to this data?
  • Could my business use this data to make tactical predictions for the future?
  • Which sources have the highest value? Aim for the low hanging fruit first.
  • What is my cost to develop these sources into useable information that can drive my business? Some sources will incur more cost for data preparation and cleansing.

It’s important to have definitive answers to these questions when embarking on an IoT project or any new data source that you want integrated with your analytics systems—whether it be an enterprise data warehouse, data lake, data mart or database.

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