From sensor data to business insights

From sensor data to business insights

Whether they come from devices, people, or processes, a new wave of sensing capabilities is creating a wealth of business value—and fueling the Internet of Everything.

“I believe this is the most significant development since the advent of the World Wide Web,” says Jim Grubb, vice president of emerging technologies and chief demonstration officer at Cisco. “In many ways, it’s more significant.”

He’s talking about the Internet of Everything (IoE), which promises to transform the world as we know it by connecting people, data, processes, and things. These connections unlock insights and opportunities that weren’t previously possible—goldmines for savvy businesses to explore.

“Information leads to competitive advantage, and just a little can go a long way,” Grubb says. “Think of the shipping company that first offered tracking information. They seized a chunk of market share, set a new industry standard, and forced their competitors to play catch up.”

More information sources expand the potential for connections. More connections lead to new insights and actions. More insights and actions create value and differentiation. But it all starts with the information sources, and, according to Grubb, sensors are playing a huge role in the IoE megatrend.

“Sensors generate a ton of useful data at the edge, where things are happening,” he explains. “And the size and cost of sensors are dropping dramatically, making them increasingly viable for additional connections, insights, and efficiencies.”

  • Agricultural sensors are being used to monitor wine grapes and optimize watering schedules.
  • Parking sensors are being employed to understand traffic flows and provide new services to motorists.
  • Industrial and mechanical sensors are being utilized to improve maintenance efforts and predict impending failures before they impact operations.
  • Medical sensors are helping monitor patients’ vital signs when they are away from a hospital, some of which are swallowed and powered by the heat and vibration of the body.

But sensing capabilities aren’t just coming from the newest and smallest devices.

  • Video cameras are increasingly being used as sensors, with processing capabilities that analyze things like consumer behavior, foot traffic patterns, and dwell time in specific aisles or in front of promotional displays.
  • Even humans are modern sensors, providing observations and opinions—representing a wealth of valuable data—across social networks.

“The possibilities for data gathering are almost limitless,” says Grubb. “It all boils down to economics and whether the cost of data acquisition and analysis is worth the business value derived.”

Data correlation increases value
While sensors deliver valuable data feeds, the greatest insights and opportunities are found when multiple information sources are combined and correlated. This is when new trends and associations can be discovered and acted upon.

“A sensor on the bearings of a train can help predict when those bearings will fail,” says Grubb. “But the predictions become much more precise when you combine data sources related to speed, distance, cargo weight, and weather.”

This type of data correlation is already happening on a broad scale.

  • Product, inventory, and pricing details are readily combined, allowing consumers to search online for products that are available at nearby stores.
  • In the near future, consumers may get information about lines, parking, traffic, and time-based promotions that will further inform their purchasing decisions.

People, process, data, and things—all must be combined to maximize the value therein. This is the thrust and promise of IoE.

“The initial fever surrounding the World Wide Web was all about commerce,” says Grubb. “IoE is inherently broader, and therefore more momentous. As we connect people, processes, and things in the physical world, we gain deeper levels of visibility and knowledge. And it’s about to explode.”

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