Carmen Fontana covers our third Morning with Microsoft event, sharing insights on discussions about the Internet of Things and the obstacles surrounding it.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking at a “Morning with Microsoft” event in South Florida with my colleague Chris Martinez. Unfortunately, the event was during a regional cold snap, so I did not get to enjoy the usual balmy Florida weather. However, the engaging and invigorating dialogue around the positives and drawbacks regarding the Internet of Things (IoT) more than made up for my disappointment in the weather.
IoT empowers organizations to gather, analyze, and employ information in ways previously unattainable. But this newfound capability is not without its challenges:
- Overwhelming Size: IoT generates tremendous volume and velocity of information, quickly swamping most homegrown data collection systems
- Security Worries: The proliferation of sensors and devices in our homes and workplaces makes IoT a juicy target for nefarious entities
- Death-by-Data: Organizations often find it challenging to sift through IoT data to find actionable insights in a way that is both scalable and forward-looking
But we recognized these obstacles also present opportunities. Our presentation explored these topics, which set the stage for the mindful group discussion that followed.
The Discussion Explored These Topics
Architecting for Scale
Tesla cars generate 25 Gb data PER HOUR! That’s an insane amount of data that needs to be streamed, processed, and stored. Thankfully, public cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, feature multiple options for scaling IoT depending on your business goals.
Implementation options range from fully managed IoT SaaS models that require no cloud solution development expertise to IoT PaaS pre-configured solutions that give a little more flexibility to fully customizable IoT services for sophisticated implementations.
Additionally, we delved into the burgeoning field of Edge Computing. In traditional IoT scenarios, devices are “dumb” – assigned only to collect data and send it back to the cloud for processing. With Edge Computing, IoT devices are more intelligent, doing some of the processing themselves. This is especially helpful in situations with unreliable internet connectivity or in situations that require time-sensitive decisions.
We had a lively discussion around security and privacy. In general, attendees appreciated the advantages that IoT devices give including, health monitoring, business process improvement, home automation, and more.
But there was trepidation about how people and organizations can use the data unintentionally, or even worse, maliciously, to invade personal privacy. Examples included using personal health information from IoT wearables to deny health insurance coverage or personal assistants, such as Alexa, to monitor private conversations.
The consensus was that we need to keep IoT systems secure enough to keep out the bad guys (hackers), but also flexible enough to give good guys (users) power over their personal data’s use.
IoT generates tremendous volume and velocity of information, which can cause a phenomenon I like to call “Death-by-Data.” The data collects quicker than the user can process it, causing them to drown in their own information.
Often, the knee jerk reaction to this onslaught of information is to grab some visualization tools and jump right into slice-and-dice mode, creating all sorts of pie charts and bar graphs with their IoT data. However, at our presentation, we discussed a different approach that puts people first, followed by process, and finally, technology.
This Process Included Asking These Questions
- What is the heartbeat of what you want to accomplish?–Just because IoT gives you all of the data, does not mean you should use all the data. Think about which application of your data will provide you with the most business value.
- Who will use the data?–IoT data can be meaningful to a lot of different stakeholders, such as executives, technicians, and purchasing agents. A Design Thinking approach is often helpful in determining personas for your IoT information users.
- Which processes will you affect?—Some of the processes you affect may be obvious, such as maintenance and transportation. Others may be less apparent but equally important such as procurement or human resources.
- What tooling should you implement?–Visualization tools such as Tableau and PowerBI are great for tracking reactive IoT insights. If you leverage the data for predictive action, you will need to think about Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
- What optimization should you do?–Breathing life into your data is not a “one and done” exercise. Revisit this process regularly. Ask yourself if your organization is gaining new insights from the IoT data? Have new problems developed that can be solved? Are your users delighted?
- There are multiple options for harnessing IoT, depending on your business goals. With smart design, your Azure IoT platform can shrink and grow based on need, saving you money in the process.
- Securing your system requires thinking about both the bad guys (hackers) and the good guys (your users). Your system can be secure while still giving your users flexibility in access and privacy.
- IoT generates tremendous volume and velocity of information, which can cause “Death-by-Data.” IoT data truly comes to life when paired with intelligent processes and tools.
With mindful design and implementation, your IoT investment can not only overcome but thrive.