Getting from IoT to ROI

The Internet of Things might be the next big money-maker, but industry leaders are still debating how to unlock that value. In fact, while most companies say the IoT will likely boost their business, few have a clear plan in place.

An IIC members panel at this week’s LiveWorx IoT conference in Boston addressed just that issue.

“There’s a lot of hype around IoT, said panel member Syed Hoda, CMO at ParStream, which offers an analytics platform. “But there are some things that are actually real-life, places where you can monetize it and customers like it,” he said.

Yet, a recent ParStream survey of early IoT adopters found that measuring ROI is a challenge. “Only one-third of companies had metrics, and about another one-third said they didn’t know how to measure it,” Hoda said.

“A lot of companies are just trying to learn,” Hoda said. But the companies with the best ROI were also the best at collecting and acting on data to generate value quickly, he said.

EMC’s Wayne Adams agreed that many companies struggle with where to start. It’s not as simple as taking information from sensors and benchmarking data, said Adams, senior technologist and director of standards at the company.

“It’s not just about the data. It’s about knowing what to match additional information to before you can do analytics.”

The challenges IoT and big data bring are not confined to the question of how to collect and analyse it. There’s the question of who’s in charge of it.

“We’re finding that in a lot of companies nobody knows who is in charge,” Hoda said. “You need a chief IoT officer. It’s not an IT project, it’s a business project.”

Allan Alter, senior research fellow with consulting group Accenture, said the first step is to understand what your customer wants.

“Thinking about the customer is where it all starts,” he said.

The panel members agreed some of the biggest growth opportunities in IoT are heavy industry, energy, and airlines.

The IoT allows mining companies to operate remotely, 24-7, and in much more dangerous environments, Alter said. A control room coordinates everything.

And RFID tagging on things like life vests, seats, and generators on aircraft can help improve uptime and reduce costs, said Tim Butler, CEO of Tego, which makes RFID chips and tags.

For instance, Butler said, “B/E Aerospace, the world’s largest manufacture of plane seats, uses RFID tagging in its seats to allow airlines to hit the tag if the seat is broken.”

“The biggest growth opportunities are in energy,” Hoda argued. Renewable energy in particular.

A Denmark-based wind turbine company, for instance, generated 116 million dollars a year from insight from it’s sensors, Hoda said. In Denmark 40 percent of all energy produced is renewable.

“This is where smart companies get smarter,” Hoda said.

Security was another major theme of the panel.

For Adams, security is the responsibility of the company offering the platform, and waiting for government regulation to catch up could hinder innovation, he said.

“Let’s be serious, these things are going to be built and we are not going to wait for 100 percent security,” Adams said. “It’s up to us.”

Adams said that eventually security will be defined by insurance companies.

“The real question is trust, Alter said. “How do you create situations and perceptions around security so people trust you? You can’t do it alone. You have to work with other companies to develop security best practices.”

Others on the panel took a softer approach.

“There’s a little bit of an overreaction in this area, Hoda said. “Sometimes I think we overthink security.

“There is some data that you have that nobody cares about. Get smart about where the data is that really matters and what’s really proprietary.”

View LiveWorx keynotes and breakout sessions.

Image by steve p2008 on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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