|By Ed Featherston||
|March 19, 2017 12:00 PM EDT||
Are You Thinking About Big Data When Doing IoT? - You Should Be
There is no denying the Internet of Things (IoT) is a hot topic. Gartner positions IoT as being at the peak of the ‘hype cycle.' From a size perspective, these ‘Things' can be anything, from a small sensor to a large appliance, and everything in between. The data transmitted by these devices, for the most part, tends to be small - tiny packets of information destined for consumption and analysis, bringing value to the business.
Is there hype? Yes. As with any new technology, there is always a level of hype involved. Are the data packets involved small? For the most part, yes (there are always exceptions). While both may be true, The Internet of Things is growing at breakneck speed. No matter which analyst you read, the growth predictions are staggering. Gartner predicts that we will hit over 20 billion (with a B) devices by 2020. IHS predicts even larger numbers, with 30 billion by 2020, and over 75 billion devices by 2025. No matter what, that's a lot of devices, and no matter how small the packets, multiplied by the number of devices, that's a lot of data.
It's not the things, it's the data
What I find interesting is that many times the focus of discussion when talking IoT are the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The latest Fitbit or smartwatch. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). Yes, those technologies are interesting (okay, fascinating, I will admit, my inner geek loves getting down into the actual technologies), but when we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing?
What I am about to say may sound like heresy to many. IoT is not about the devices. The devices are not the end goal. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits, conduits of information. They provide (and consume) information. Massive amounts of information. A former colleague of mine for years was always fond of saying, ‘Ed, It's all about the data.' In the burgeoning world of IoT that statement identifies the true business value of IoT. Information.
Watching out for potholes
Recently, Ford announced they were testing a pothole detector and alert system for cars. Living in New England, let me tell you, potholes are the bane of a car driver's existence. Many a car ends up in the repair shop during pothole season. Given that, the concept is intriguing. The manufacturer has cameras mounted on the vehicles. The cameras scan the roadway around the vehicle looking for signs of potholes. Image recognition allows it to make this determination. If a pothole is detected, the system will allow the car to avoid hitting the pothole, and thus potential damage to the vehicle.
Now some would say, ‘what does that have to do with big data?' The system is self-contained within the vehicle. To be useful, the system needs to react in near real-time to the situation. It doesn't have time to send all the data back to the cloud for analysis to determine if there is a pothole. Also, what if it loses network connection? All valid points. Let's take a step back, and look at the bigger picture.
- How does the system recognize a pothole? Image recognition. What does image recognition need? Lots of data about what potholes look like. Machine learning algorithms help it determine if its seeing a pothole, and those algorithms need data to do that.
- What will be the source of those pothole images? Wouldn't it be useful if images of any potholes the system encounters become part of the source data for the image recognition system to improve its detection? Wouldn't it be useful to provide that back to a central location to improve the algorithms and detection software, which could then be sent back to all the other vehicles to improve their capability?
- What about all the cars without the system? Wouldn't it be nice if the pothole locations were flagged to the various GPS applications people use so they are aware of the pothole and its location?
- What about the local public works department? Wouldn't it be nice if they were automatically notified about the new pothole identified so it could be repaired?
Given the importance of the data to the success of any IoT implementation, ingesting that information is critical to the successful implementation.
- Data Quality - In the world of data, quality has always been an important consideration. Data cleansing and scrubbing is standard practice already in many organizations. It has become critical for IoT implementations. Ingesting dirty data into even the best IoT implementation will bring it to a grinding halt.
- Data Volume - As I have mentioned already, many times the data packets for an individual device/sensor are small. That being said, multiplied by the sheer number of devices, the volume can quickly overwhelm a network or storage environment if not planned for appropriately. These considerations also must take into account location
- Data Timeliness - Besides volume, new and timely data is also a consideration. In the pothole example, if the last update was weeks ago, how valid is the location anymore?
- Data Pedigree - Where did the data come from? Is it a valid source? The pedigree is less important when using internal systems, as the source is well known, but IoT systems, by their nature, frequently will be getting their data from devices and sources outside the normal perimeter. This requires extra effort to ensure you trust the information being consumed.
No technology negates the need for good design and planning
Based on all estimates by industry analysts and current trends, the Internet of Things is growing at an incredible rate and is here to stay. There is a big radar blip of data outside your data center that is not going anywhere. That data provides great value, but also many challenges that need to be taken into consideration. If you are doing IoT and are not looking at Big Data, you are missing an opportunity and business value. As many of my readers have heard me say frequently, no technology negates the need for good design and planning. The Internet of Things and the accompanying Big Data demands it if you are to be successful.
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