What is the Internet of Things?

Consultants, analysts, and futurists have called the Internet of Things (IoT) the next digital transformation and the fourth industrial revolution.[1][2][3][4][5] Like the dot-com revolution of the late 1990s and early 2000s, executives and analysts alike expect the IoT transformation to invent new products and services, streamline operations, and reconceive business models.[6]

But, beyond being the buzzword du jour, what is IoT? Why is there so much hype about it? How do you implement IoT? And what is its relationship to your existing technology investments?

Over the coming weeks, we’ll answer these and many other questions about IoT. We’ll also provide a framework for integrating your existing technology investments into the Internet of Things — wherever your organization may fall on the technology maturity scale. First, we’ll start by defining IoT.

1.   What is the Internet of Things?

This definition highlights the four key elements of IoT:

  1. ECOSYSTEM Some articles refer to IoT as a network; but, it’s so much more than that. “Network” simply implies bidirectional communication — devices that talk to each other. But IoT is organic: constantly growing, changing, resizing, and reorganizing itself to better meet consumers’ and businesses’ needs. This autonomous rearranging of network layers and devices on an ad hoc basis — with analytical support from advanced prescriptive & predictive platforms — makes IoT an ecosystem.
  2. INTERCONNECTED Data sharing isn’t new; even traditional PLC \ DCS systems share and analyze the data generated by each connected object. But, these traditional systems are intra-connected, or focused within a single network. IoT, on the other hand, brings together wider and sometimes disparate data sets from across multiple sources and networks. IoT also connects internal systems that traditionally haven’t had the best integration, such as your SCADA, risk management, resource planning, and asset management systems. View a local object’s operating data in context of assigned operations or maintenance staff, other facilities/locations in your organization, other organizations using the same device, and myriad external sources, such as weather history, demand forecasts, utility rates, and much more.
  3. INSTRUMENTS The declining cost of IoT-connected, device-embedded sensors and meters has made generating data cheaper than ever. Traditionally, instruments were expensive, so only vital and critical equipment received sensors to monitor operations. Monitoring essential and noncritical assets consisted of staff using portable instruments to take spot readings during routine inspections. But with cheap sensors, you can monitor all the vital statistics of every asset — such as voltage, current, temperature, vibration, and weather — including the health of the instruments themselves. Automating data collection gives you near-real-time visibility into your assets’ performance and frees your staff to do maintenance and inspect those aspects of asset health and performance that can’t be detected by sensors yet.
  4. INTELLIGENCE Collecting data for the sake of collecting data simply creates tons of tape drives. But IoT provides new uses for our data. Enabled by cutting-edge analytical platforms newly available in the cloud, IoT combines the collective input from our various objects’ current and historical operating context to generate novel insights and actionable intelligence.

Is IoT worth the hype? For practical ways to use IoT to make smarter asset management decisions, email us at info@motorsatwork.com

[1] World Economic Forum, “The Internet of Things will power the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Here’s how,” 24 June 2017.

[2] Gartner, “The Internet of Things is a revolution waiting to happen,” 30 April 2015.

[3] Ted Schadler & Nigel Fenwick, “The Digital Business Imperative,” Forrester 15 February 2017.

[4] Thomas M. Siebel, “Why digital transformation is now on the CEO’s shoulders,” McKinsey Quarterly December 2017.

[5] The Economist, “The Internet of Things Business Index 2017: Transformation in motion,” February 2017.

[6] The Economist, “The Internet of Things Business Index 2017: Transformation in motion,” February 2017.

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