To the collective fanfare of family and friends I'm proud to announce I've planned ahead this year. Well sort off. My usual Christmas present buying routine (replace with panic) normally begins around the 21st. But this year is different, I've set aside a whopping whole day (mid-week to avoid the crowds of course, and yes, I am aware that internet shopping exists) and armed with a list (compiled for me) off I went.
While subserviently staring at a large monitor to be notified of my collection point, it occurred to me that this year I have inadvertently been a 100% contributor to the internet of things.
Every single item on my list, from fitness trackers, Children's dolls, games and an electronic doorbell (don't ask) is integrated in some way to the internet, they rely on communication and or / external data to work. And taking a moment to break my screen watching vigil - I'm comforted in the fact that I'm clearly not alone.
What is the internet Of Things? (IOT)
“At a very basic level, “Internet of Things” means devices that can sense aspects of the real world — like temperature, lighting, the presence or absence of people or objects, etc. — and report that real-world data, or act on it. Instead of most data on the Internet being produced and consumed by people (text, audio, video), more and more information would be produced and consumed by machines, communicating between themselves to (hopefully) improve the quality of our lives.”
And another thought. These things clearly generate lots of data, most of it automated but how much?
Google and a bit of waiting room math
So, basically it's massive and that's an understatement - it's so gargantuan that the term 'Big Data' doesn't come anywhere near justifying it.
MIT Tech, Gartner and Cisco predict an average of 35 billion objects will be connected to the internet by 2020. At present the average household produces enough data from these objects to fill 65 iPhones per year or 2,000gb (2 Terabytes). To put that into context just 1 gigabyte is enough to store 3,333 books, so at present we generate enough data to store 6.6 million books.
Fast forward to 2020 then this is estimated to be a staggering 33.3 million books a year. – or roughly the entire combined collections of the New York state Library (20m) and Yale university library (15m) produced by just a single household annually.
And if that's not enough, then in the industrial world a single Boeing jet engine can produce around 20 terabytes of data an hour – in terms of books that's about 60 million, and in a couple of hours that's about the same as every book ever written.
How is this data used?
Admittedly not all of this data can, or should be used for analysis that will improve processes, streamline our daily activities and indeed improve the quality of our lives. Much of this data, such as personal photos and videos clearly don't have much practical business value but what about the rest of it?
Aside from the obvious industries that stand to gain such as Healthcare and Insurance from collecting data on health to individuals driving styles - Tracking KPIs will, and has already gone far beyond simply visualizing information to help make insightful decisions. Manufacturing machinery is now far more automated - reducing the amount of decisions needed to be made manually by an operator. KPIs help these operators monitor the performance of the machinery in real time and intervene (less and less) as something unprecedented arises.
Customer service will become even more proactive, as devices notify the company of issues with themselves. Parts can notify the company when they are wearing out and more can be sent, reducing the people, time and cost needed to support these devices.
Is it all a good thing for business?
The sheer volume of data causes infrastructure challenges in terms of storing and transporting / streaming the data over networks that cannot yet cope with the volume. Businesses will need to be able to easily select and backup relevant data and disregard the rest. And more efficient ways will need to be created to filter the data before its consumed. As with any internet enabled device there is the risk of security and potential data loss or manipulation in transit. And as the data stored becomes more widespread, obscure and granular there will be a need for more governance. .