IoT Innovation Is A Pipe Dream Without Digital Core

John Graham

Amara’s Law states that we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run. In few areas is this theory more aptly applied than in the Internet of Things. The plummeting prices and improved connectivity of sensors, along with a massive jump in the scale of data capture and analysis has innovative minds doing overtime to come up with IoT-based processes that extract the maximum possible value.

Despite the efforts of these forward thinkers, reaping the full benefits of IoT will first require organizations as a whole to reshape major parts of their operational models, as foretold by IDC Canada’s IoT analyst Nigel Wallis at the recent Toronto IDC Directions Symposium. That’s why, in my mind, IoT may not make a perceived widespread impact over the next year or two, but over the longer term. And when more businesses are set up to enable it, it will transform virtually every aspect of industry.

Soon sensors will be everywhere. With the price of LIDAR sensors falling from the region of $150K to $1K, more companies can enter the market, and the rate of adoption and innovation is set to skyrocket. As a result, the Internet of Things will feel as pervasive by 2020 as Wi-Fi does today.

Wallis said IoT will become a marketplace where “everything and anything can be measured.” Benefits like immediate notifications and pinpoint accuracy will have universal appeal that reaches and enhances businesses in all industries and every facet of public service.

Wallis went on to give examples of where IoT is already showing its worth. At Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, a “network of baggage carts” (5,000 across 17 sq. km., to be exact) is tracked in real time by sensors that bounce signals from cart to cart. This has turned the daunting balancing act of tracking cart availability, utilization, and maintenance into a smoothly run process.

Elsewhere, maintenance of water pipes, the arteries of civilization, has been an early priority for IoT innovation. Experts believe up to 40% of water used in the U.S. is wasted, and the average cost to fix a water main is $10K. Pinhole leaks are the main cause, but modern acoustic sensors can spot when such leaks form, giving maintenance teams time to fix pipes before they burst.

In a more novel concept that will actually prove to be transformative for cities, Bigbelly garbage cans detect when they’re full and trigger a notification when they need emptying. This will greatly improve the efficiency of the waste collector’s daily run, while having positive knock on effects on road traffic, noise, pollution, and city cleanliness.

IoT is not only showing early promise, it is hitting the ground running with real results in some cities and industries. To follow in those footsteps, organizations and operations, especially large-scale ones, will need to rethink how things are done at the foundation. Before fitting thousands of sensors and kitting employees out with wearables, there must be a digital core in place that enables the real-time capture and analysis of live data. Only with that groundwork laid will IoT technology be ready to revolutionize organizational responsiveness and decision-making.

For more insight on what drives digital transformation, see Information Transformation At The Heart Of Digital Transformation—And Why The CEO Needs To Drive It.