If you want to manage the mountains of data generated by an Internet of Things (IoT) implementation, you better have a strategy beforehand and ensure it is executed faithfully. Otherwise, too much can go wrong. To keep things from going off the rails, you need effective information governance (IG)—the practice that enables managing and generating value from IoT data.
Let’s define the IoT as a collection of devices that send data between one another with the purpose of taking an action, making a decision or providing a service—without the need for human intervention. This working definition is rather broad, and you could argue that the IoT has been around for a while. For example, over the past 20 years, I’ve used RFID badges to gain access to office buildings and record my comings and goings. That’s a very simple IoT implementation.
So what’s changed to make IoT such a dynamic topic recent years? A lot.
The Internet of Things at Work
The cost of sensors has dramatically decreased, while computing power has increased. Lower cost and self-sustaining energy has been developed. Many different types of wireless-communications options have become available and cost effective. Standards have been developed. Consumers have started wanting these services, and so on. These advances enable more, larger and increasingly complex IoT installations, and they allow us to generate more value than ever before using the collected data.
Let’s go back to the example of the RFID badges. I still use an RFID badge and reader to get into my office and onto each floor. I probably present my card to sensors 10 times a day, on average, and I’ll assume the other 300 people in the building also do. Those numbers equate to about 3,000 events in a nine-hour day communicating with a central computer system. This situation is still a common IoT use case that many of us experience every day.
But consider a newer scenario made possible by recent advances.
I attend a large industry conference in a massive Las Vegas complex every year. Each of the 10,000 or so participants is equipped with an RFID-enabled conference badge. There are hundreds—maybe thousands—of sensors stationed throughout the building.
The conference organizers track my every move for the four days I’m there. They collect data on where I am at any given time, what paths I take, how long I stay in what session and how long I’m standing in a particular vendor’s booth. They send me text messages or notices through their custom mobile app, alerting me to when the next session I’m registered for starts and how to get there. They also send me a survey link for the session I just attended. Though I don’t know for certain, I wouldn’t be surprised if they correlate my mobile-phone beacon with my RFID tag and collect information about me when I’m not even at the conference.
Using a little rough math, that experience equates to about 10,000 events per second among all the conference attendees.
You can see how the magnitude of an IoT installation can quickly scale. The RFID conference-badge example is trivial compared with the number of events and data generated by an autonomous vehicle or an aircraft in flight. Boeing now installs 8,000 to 10,000 sensors on each new airplane it manufactures. The company estimates every flight of a 787 produces over 500GB of data. When you include data from two engines, Wipro research that says a single cross-country flight across the United States generates 240TB.
Data’s Role in the IoT
Contrary to its common moniker—first coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton of MIT—IoT is not about or dependent on the Internet at all (although some connections may use an Internet-based protocol such as IPv6). As the estimated 30 billion to 50 billion devices connect over the next five years by conducting IoT interactions, most won’t link directly to the Internet at all. They will talk to each other over transport layers and protocols such as Bluetooth Low Energy, NFC, Wi-Fi, LPWAN, LoRaWAN and others yet to be developed. Eventually, some aggregate of the data will reach the Internet on its journey to a big-data lake in the cloud.
The Internet of Things is introducing a whole new layer of data-management complexity—and insight—into the day-to-day workings of modern business. Collecting this data by itself produces no value. The collected data must be combined with other data, put in context and analyzed to create insights, action plans or self-learning feedback loops.
For this reason, proper information governance is critical to IoT projects. These practices will allow the data in the IoT supply chain to create business value. Consider that weather data is of little value until it’s correlated with location and other geographical information. In the conference-badge example, my location-tracking data is of little value unless it’s correlated with the sessions I’m attending and other information about me and my activity.
That’s why you’ll hear more and more about the role of information governance in helping businesses tap into the potential of the IoT—while making sure they avoid getting buried in the massive amounts of data it generates.
About the Author
Andrew Sohn is Sr. Principal, Big Data and Analytics, for NewVantage Partners, a world-class provider of data-management and analytics-driven strategic consulting services to Fortune 1000 firms, and the industry leader in big data strategy consulting, thought leadership, execution and business-value realization.