Look around you. I don't care where you are in this world, data is ever present. There are a few exceptions, but even the individual who lives off the grid still has data. It may not be due to some sensor or other technological advancement, but data exists even in one' s mind or on a sticky note. We live in a world where data surrounds us, and we make decisions based on that information. For the purpose of today's Blog, I'm going to focus more on the data that is collected via some mechanism in an automated fashion.
“What is this mechanism?”, you may ask. It is the world of the Internet of Things (IoT) and everything that makes up the IoT world. Let's not focus on the hardware/software that is collecting the data, but rather the data that is being collected. Now you are asking yourself, "Well they already have the data”, but, interestingly enough, they don't know what the data is telling them.
I came across an article by McKinsey a while back, and it is something that really drove home the point for me. In their article from 2015, they stated the following:
“Currently, most IoT data is not used. For example, on an oil rig that has 30,000 sensors, only 1 percent of the data is examined. That’s because this information is used mostly to detect and control anomalies—not for optimization and prediction, which provide the greatest value.” https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/the-internet-of-things-the-value-of-digitizing-the-physical-world
Sit back and think about that for a moment. There are 30,000 sensors on an Oil Rig and only 1 percent of this data is actually analyzed? Sure, they are looking for anomalies, but could they use the data that has led to the anomalies over time to help take a more proactive approach? Granted, this report was published in 2015, so hopefully they have increased the percentage of data they are analyzing, but think about your own industry. Are you collecting data and sitting back wondering why and how to get to the answers that are only in your dreams?
You're not alone. Organizations continue to wonder what could be if they took the connected world of IoT seriously. There are some organizations that have walked up to the water's edge and dipped their toes into the world of IoT. You may be saying, "Sounds great, let them be the guinea pigs and report back whether it works or not." Don't be mistaken, the world of IoT and making sound decisions based on that data is here. If you are waiting to see what happens, your competitors are leapfrogging you, taking your customers and finding ways to capitalize on this insight that you continue to dream about.
What you dream about is a world that helps you make decisions when they matter most, based on things you may or may not even be aware of, that may have a significant impact on you, your employees and the organization. The data may already exist, or you may have to find a way to get the data. The key to happiness can be found deep within the 1s and 0s.
Start Small, Win Small
The only advice I can provide is the following, "Start Small, Win Small".
Here is why. There are multiple factors that you need to consider when moving along the IoT path. The first and foremost is your data architecture. You may have several systems out there. They may or may not be connected, and now you want to collect all of this new IoT data. Understanding how the data that is being collected is relatable to the other systems is important to consider. The data collected may be something as simple as temperature of a bearing on a piece of equipment, but you may also be measuring throughput of some conveyor. Data is data, and how you use the data impacts your approach to the collection, analysis (correlation/aggregation/etc.) and storage of the data. You need to determine what problem you are trying to solve. Are you trying to determine how the thermal nuclear reaction is causing adverse effects on the clinoid? (…completely made this statement up). Are you trying to determine why a conveyor seems to break down and your production run has stopped in its tracks? Are you just trying to be proactive? Those are completely different things to measure and analyze. Start small. Figure out what problem you want to solve, capture the data and analyze. Rome was not built in a day, nor will you be able to click the proverbial "Easy Button" to get your answers.
If you just want to be notified that there is an issue, you can do that, because that typically is a clear-cut answer. "My machine is not running and smells really hot. Can someone please fix it?" However, that is not the value that data can provide with the addition of tools and techniques that help you find answers. It is important that organizations continue to look forward and find insights from the data. It is great that you can look at the data from Descriptive (historical) view, but that does not help with future decisions. The introduction of IoT, along with Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, will help you look at your data and begin to understand what is happening or has happened in the past.
Data Is Power
Organizations need to harness the power of the data they are collecting and leverage tools that help them make a turn from a Descriptive view of their data to Predictive (what might happen) analysis and ultimately Prescriptive (tell me what to do) answers. Don't get me wrong, there is work involved, architectures to consider, security risks to be assessed and buy-in to the overall value of harnessing the data to make decisions. It does not matter what industry you are in or what your role is, you know that, "Data is Power".
It is up to you to determine how you leverage the data through seeking out new ways of doing business or simply continuing to do things the same way you have always done them. That may work in some instances, but ask yourself whether better information could have helped you close that new deal you just lost or predict a failure before there was even physical sign of a problem. Technology is here. It produces a ton of data, and it is evolving every single day. You must decide if this is something that is worth your time and effort.