Internet of things applications across multiple industries

From manufacturing to retail, where are the IoT opportunities?

By Jason Mann, Director of Product Management, IoT and Industry Solutions, SAS

Across industries, Internet of Things (IoT) mania is starting to turn from hype to reality. As businesses begin to apply analytics to their streaming data, we’re seeing a pickup in recognition of how big the IoT opportunity can be. I’m excited by the new use cases that continue to come up, and the many pilots that are exceeding expected returns.

Part of the progress we’re seeing comes from organizations taking the IoT seriously and setting up infrastructures specifically for IoT applications. In many companies, the biggest benefit comes when building integrated platforms for the full IoT life cycle – data management, analytics and decision support.  Access and storage is important, but the value comes from the insights generated from the data. Any complete IoT solution also needs to provide an environment for data analysis, model development and model maintenance. Factoring in the operational elements will help you see sustained value from your IoT initiatives.

Keep reading to learn how early adopters across industries are benefiting by analyzing IoT data. 

Industry-focused Internet of Things applications

Manufacturing industries, especially high volume facilities, are using sensor data and advanced analytics to increase yield. Early identification of process or product variance allows early correction, resulting in reduced defects and increased efficiency. Processes that require highly variable elements such as temperature, pressure and viscosity, or industries that require precision placement of components are benefiting from the increased density of sensors and insights generated from the data.

We’re talking billions of sensors in five to 10 years. That’s just around the corner, and the decisions you make and the steps you take now are going to position you for that new reality.

Another industry with a history in Iot is oil and gas, specifically production and refining. Downtime incurs huge risk and cost, so the industry continues to improve and expand how it uses sensors, networks and analytics to generate predictive insight into the degradation of equipment performance and predict failures in oil fields, pipeline networks and refineries. The result is expedited identification of possible equipment failures and optimization of the entire production process.

Electric utilities are expanding the use of phasor measurement unit (PMU) data outside normal operational reporting. Initially the PMU data was used to visualize and report on parameters such as voltage, current and frequency. New capabilities in streaming analytics allow them to use the data to identify events occurring within the power grid. The response to a lightning strike is quite different than a transformer failure. Being able to discern the difference in near-real time is critical to formulating and deploying a response. IoT data helps makes that determination quickly.

Transportation is also using IoT advancements. Heavy truck industries are using streaming data from the engines and subsystems to identify potential breakdowns and then schedule efficient maintenance visits outside of operating hours. The technicians are pre-notified as to the potential problems and equipped with the right repair parts for the quickest turnaround possible. Sensors are also deployed to the trailers or actual loads being transported. Heat, vibration and sound frequency can all be used to monitor the safe transport of freight.

You see similar benefits in the automotive space. Onboard diagnostic data is used for early detection of equipment failure, safety risks and defects. This information can be evaluated for insight into single vehicles or across fleets. The “connected car” also provides top-line growth opportunities. The trend of integrating mobile devices with in-car infotainment systems provides endless opportunities for consumer promotion. All necessary components are in place: the customer profile, geo proximity to retail or service outlets and the channel to deliver the message to the consumer.

To continue with the consumer promotion theme, many retailers are investing in Internet of Things applications. They can target in-store promotion opportunities to individual consumers who have opted in to these programs. Advancements with beacons and in-store video tracking allow retailers to deliver targeted customer-specific messaging based on their exact location and proximity to products within the store. First, the consumer opts in to the retailer’s app. As the customer passes end-of-aisle displays or other areas of potential interest, the store can generate an instant promotion based on his profile and purchase history and deliver the message or coupon to his mobile device. Real-time analytics are assessing (based on the consumer profile) what promotions to present, and at what frequency and timing, as the consumer moves through the store. While the “creepy factor” associated with having every move tracked may be a hurdle for some consumers, the benefits reported from some early pilots suggest that retailers will continue to expand deployments, and connected consumers who find benefit in the program will continue to opt in.

What you need to develop your own Internet of Things applications

I hope more organizations can use today’s market buzz to create a sense of urgency and launch serious pilots with important use cases. And then we’ll see adoption spread rapidly within and across industries. Projections about the coming pervasiveness and persistence of these sensors are astronomical. We’re talking billions of sensors in five to 10 years. That’s just around the corner, and the decisions you make and the steps you take now are going to position you for that new reality.

I recommend three things for any organization hoping to take advantage of IoT data and develop their own IoT applications:

  1. Act now. The opportunity to use IoT as a competitive advantage is here now, so take it. If you think you don’t have an IoT use case, you need to think harder. There are opportunities across all industries. The slow progress of others can create opportunity for your business today. But if you’re not working on IoT, you may fall behind quickly.
  2. Think differently about your data. Taking advantage of IoT requires different ways of thinking – about how data is used, how much of it we can handle, how fast we can process and analyze it, and ultimately where and how decisions are made. This is not just a chance to better inform and automate business processes; it is a step change in capability that provides unprecedented opportunities in business integration and customer connection.
  3. Analyze data at the edge. On the technical side, the definition of “edge” is changing. Computing capacity once available on servers has moved to routers and gateways, and what used to be available on routers and gateways happens on local devices and the sensors themselves. Analytics is moving to the edge as well. You no longer need to land the data for analysis; you can now take analytics to the data, while it is in motion.

To take advantage of these trends, the technical architecture for IoT must be adaptable – at the same time that it serves the full life cycle of data, analytics and decisions.


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