Big Data Explainer | Internet of Things

While the idea of an Internet of Things—a network of connected smart devices—was first discussed as long ago as the early 1980s, it didn't officially get its name until much later, and it's only really become truly ubiquitous over the last 10 to 15 years.

Kevin Ashton is generally acknowledged to have coined the term in the late 90s while working at American multinational Procter & Gamble. His initial concept was largely focussed on RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) technology that could be used to tag devices, track inventory, and manage the supply chain. Today, however, the concept of IoT has broadened to cover all manner of devices, such as sensors, wearables, smartphones, and beacons that can connect to the network and collect and/or share data.

What is Behind the Rise of IoT?

One of the major factors driving the rise of IoT over the last ten to fifteen years has been the increasing availability of low-cost and low-power sensors. As the price of these devices has dropped it has become more practical to use sensors in more situations than ever.

The other factor is the increasing ubiquity of connectivity and the development of internet protocols that have made it easy to connect these IoT devices and transfer data efficiently.

How Is IoT Being Used?

IoT is being used in all sorts of ways and across all manner of industries. In manufacturing, for example, IoT can be used to monitor equipment on the factory floor to ensure that devices are operating efficiently and to identify any quality defects. Combined with Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, IoT sensors can even be used to predict potential future failures, allowing the organisation to implement preventative maintenance.

IoT is also often used for tracking of all types of assets. For example, that might mean tagging all stock to enable efficient real-time reporting on stock levels, or tracking delivery trucks at all stages of the supply chain.

Another area where IoT can prove valuable is through wearable devices, such as step trackers and smart watches. These can be used to monitor employee health, as well as to identify efficiencies. For example, imagine a large warehouse and a team of employees involved in packing shipments. A solution combining IoT sensors, wearables and a business intelligence platform can help the organisation to improve its performance, such as by rearranging stock so that the most popular items are the easiest for the team to access, and by grouping items that often need to be packed together in the same physical location within the warehouse.

IoT + BI

Of course, IoT devices on their own merely collect data. To drive meaningful action the data needs to be combined with a business intelligence solution, like MotionBoard, which will enable the organisation to make decisions based on the data collected in the field.

Check out our case studies to learn about some of the ways IoT is being used in the real world.

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Matt Armstrong

View posts by Matt Armstrong
With over two decades' experience in the technology industry, Matt is WingArc Australia's manager of marketing and communications.
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