The Internet of Things (IoT) will extend the enterprise into some unusual locations, such as to the farm.
At the IoT New Zealand conference in Auckland New Zealand last week, a company called FarmIQ discussed how its systems can help farmers better track their cattle, namely by embedding the sensors within the cows themselves.
These sensors offer New Zealand farmers the ability to not only track the movement of their cattle across pastures, but also to gather statistics that will provide information about the quality of the meat the cattle will eventually produce. The network transport layer in the sensors allows for connectivity across a wide area, with coverage switching to mobile towers if the WiFi signal is too weak to connect. APIs allow for the data collected from a device to be collected, analyzed, and shared.
The Internet of Things will, according to some analysts will include more than 29.5 billion connected things in the world by the year 2020, amassing more than $1.7 Trillion in spending by that time.
At the IoT New Zealand, executives from Cisco, FarmIQ, Microsoft and others addressed many of the concerns around this emerging IoT space, giving attendees food for thought about how to incorporate IoT data into their own organizations.
There exists a large opportunity for IoT and business infrastructure as it concerns agricultural and machinery applications, as IDC reports that 90 percent of machines are not connected to any sort of monitoring device. Getting information out of data networks scattered across the world, and enabling automatic extraction of data insights, is the next step for companies operating at scale. Further drilling down into their value chain will help businesses understand how to resolve any issues present in their data.
IoT for the Enterprise
Some of the biggest challenges to IoT adoption are security, initial startup cost, and the cost of ongoing maintenance. When setting up a cloud-based technology solution, or considering using a binary repository manager at scale, the business costs quickly add up. “The value of the IoT solution is proportional to the speed and the number of times the original IoT data is analyzed,” said Vernon Turner, senior vice president for information technology and communication research at IDC.
Using data collected from IoT devices can help transform businesses. As more people than ever become connected to data automatically, there is a chance to get this data into the hands of software development teams that can make decisions to act upon the results collected from it.
Getting collected data out of the silo and into the hands of these decision-makers is crucial. One must also consider privacy concerns where user data is concerned. As more consumers are made aware of privacy issues surrounding their technology, companies must do their best to ensure that their users are able to understand how their data is collected and used.
Companies can build in privacy to help with this, working toward communicating with their users rather than relying on generic boilerplate privacy statements to convey how user data is collected, stored, and acted on. “People shouldn’t need a legal degree to understand privacy and ensure informed consent,” said Tim Henwood, who is the senior policy adviser for technology, at the New Zealand Office of the Privacy Commissioner.
Henwood went on to discuss how New Zealand’s privacy act is technology neutral. Those relying on evidence-based planning must collect the right information about their users, as when companies begin looking at their user’s personal information in regards to what they are doing and for how long, their privacy is crucial. Companies can generate a significant amount of trust and brand integrity if their users can be involved in how their data is used. Henwood noted that letting users have hands-on control over the data themselves can also help with this by using open source API’s so people can use it to better understand and control what data is generated.
Security is not an easy problem to solve within the IoT ecosphere though companies can network with other third-party providers to establish a technology stack which allows for secure user data access and analysis throughout one’s workflow.
More is Not Always Better
IoT, on the whole, should not be set on seeing how many wearable pieces of technology companies can develop. Ultimately, it is about data —specifically, its governance, consumer integration, and the improving lives through data analysis. As there are more and more products being developed daily, always consider who owns and can access user data, how it is structured across a company or an industry-wide standard of security, and how to automate and control the insight process.
One of the enterprise-level IoT offerings presented at IoT NZ was the Azure IoT Suite. This Microsoft suite offers businesses connectivity, data ingestion and control, stream processing, visualization, preconfigured solutions and much more.
“In order to connect and scale, businesses must analyze data and act on it, integrating and transforming it with other data. Data is worthless unless you can refer it to other data sets,” said Myles Matheson, who is a solution specialist for application platforms at Microsoft. There has been a gradual shift with enterprises moving toward data processed at the edge, rather than having endless data going back to a data center.
There is a variety of tools that allow for data to be extracted via automation. However, the nuances of this data are lost when they are relayed only to machines without human interaction. If a customer is “always on,” they may have vastly different needs as opposed to a machinist or agricultural worker applying IoT or cloud-based technology for the first time in their workflow. As there remains a focus on obtaining granular data sets, the need to understand and address not only what information is collected, but how it affects customers, is critical. IoT NZ helped to address these issues, offering businesses a path toward implementing an IoT strategy.
Cisco is a sponsor of The New Stack.