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IoT: New meaning to Big Data

What do SAS, Cisco, Duke Energy, GE and AT&T have in common? They are all big proponents of the Internet of Things (IoT), also often called the Industrial Internet.

The idea that sensors and microchips can be placed everywhere to create a collective network that connects devices and enables collection of data that is generated. This makes the data part of a big data lake where it can be used to analyse in the context of other information, instead of sitting in an information silo where it is accessible to only a few specialists.

Jim Davis, the vice president and chief marketing officer at SAS, says that IoT means everything will have an IP address. Jim laid out the value proposition for oil rigs which generate 8 TB of data per day. IoT can lead to greater productivity and more effective predictive maintenance. There were reports that GE was doing what Jim did, to its equipment, where a sensor is continually providing information about the equipment’s status which GE hopes to utilize to either create more effective equipment or provide support with greater efficiency.

The advances in Big Data and analytics has made it possible and affordable to store and analyse the data associated with IoT.

IoT and the Power Grid

Duke Energy is one of the largest utilities in North America, with assets spanning coal, nuclear, natural gas and renewables.

"More sensors are the DNA roadmap to allow unrelated things to talk," said Jason Handley, director of Smart Grid Technology and Operations, Emerging Technology Office, Duke Energy. "They will have embedded microprocessors which are always on."

The potential he sees in IoT, must be viewed in the context of a smart grid. By using sensors and collecting data from the consumers, power plants would be able to generate the power according to the demand. Smart meters will also help the consumers to program their own consumption to avoid peak pricing rates, prevent operation of certain devices at specific times and provide the grid operator with perhaps, limited control and far more data.

"We will be able to partner with customers to create energy usage profiles that meet their needs," said Handley. "For the good of the power grid, some customers may even let us have limited control over high usage devices in their buildings."

The goal here is to establish lowest cost and highest quality grid possible, which can be enabled by a distributed intelligence platform that harnesses analytics to sift through data that streams in from every user but it won’t be a one-way street. The user can also gain trending data and usage reports and program his/her building as a means of containing cost.

"The result will be a distributed intelligence platform with progressively more intelligence on premise, at the substation and in the central hub," Handley said.

Not All IoT Data Is Important

One of the key challenges presented by IoT is identifying the relevant data that is of importance and deciding which data has to be sent right away and which has to be stored and if so, for how long? Opines Mobeen Khan, Executive Director of product management at AT&T.

These questions are key to the business also, when only 10% of the total data that is generated needs to be actually stored, making any decision that stores either greater or lesser than this amount means extra costs for business!

"Some data just needs to be read and thrown away," Khan said.

IoT and Autonomous Vehicles

When you take IoT into the realm of intelligent vehicles, the amount of data begins to boggle the mind. But the upside is potentially colossal.

"The Internet of Things helps us to connect your vehicle to other vehicles, as well as traffic lights and parking spaces, which can add up to no more traffic jams, fewer red lights and no need to drive the vehicle," said Andreas Mai, director of Smart Connected Vehicles, Cisco Systems. "Having autonomous cars which drive themselves would eliminate 80 percent of crash scenarios."

Cisco estimates $19 trillion in economic benefits over the next decade from IoT-related improvements. For example, each vehicle might yield $1,400 per year in savings on fuel and other expenses, said Mai. Such a change would obviously disrupt industries such as automotive, insurance and public transport, as it would fundamentally shift the way they do business.

Cisco estimates economic benefits of $19trillion over the next decade from IoT related improvements. Fuel savings

On the data side, Mai urged IT organizations to get ready to deal with far larger amounts of data. That demands the building of a more scalable infrastructure and greater employment of analytics.

"Big Data is the fuel of the connected vehicle," Mai said. "It is analytics which gives you the true value."

Google has been driving autonomous networked vehicles around the U.S. for some time. Another project is ongoing in Michigan where 3,000 such vehicles are involved in a pilot project. When you scale it up to every vehicle, traffic jams would shift from the roadways to the airwaves.

IoT Infrastructure Changes

It is unrealistic to expect satellite, cellular or cloud-based networks to be able to cope. Mai said the amount of data already flying around global networks is already overwhelming telecom networks. His solution is to supplement cellular networks and the cloud with additional networking from what he termed "the fog." This is, in essence, a localized network that supplements the cloud, satellite and landline systems, perhaps only operating in the vicinity of one junction.

"It isn’t possible for cars to receive external impulses from traffic lights, mapping programs and other vehicles if it all has to go via the cloud," said Mai. "So the IoT will require a lot more compute power on the edge of the network."

But this also poses tremendous problems in the realms of Big Data and analytics. Where is this data going to be stored? How is it going to be pooled? Where will the analysis be done? Obviously, the vehicles will become smarter, more able to retain larger amounts of data and perhaps able to perform limited analytics. But that won’t be enough.

"Every enterprise needs to factor in how the Internet of Things is going to affect them and their business, and must respond by establishing the right infrastructure to support this level of Big Data and analytics," said Mai. "If they don’t, they will fall behind."


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