Based in Santa Barbara, CA, David Baum writes about innovative businesses, emerging technologies, and compelling lifestyles for a variety of print and online media. His work has appeared in InformationWeek, CIO, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Los Angeles Times. He is also a frequent contributor to Oracle Magazine and Profit.
By now just about everybody has heard of the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s happening all around us, as everything from cars to cellphones to coffee makers gains a link to the internet. Equipment sensors are now embedded in heavy machinery, IT equipment, assembly lines, electric grids, and many other devices. Gartner predicts that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices on the internet, and some industry observers think the number could reach as high as 100 billion as this giant network of “things” continues to grow.
What does this mean in the here and now, and what might the potential value be?
Let’s consider some likely scenarios. If your car could access your electronic calendar it would know when you need to be at the airport and what the best route is to get you there on time. If you are heading to a meeting and the traffic is heavy your phone might automatically alert the other party that you will be late. When your alarm clock goes off on a cold, groggy morning it might tell your coffee maker to start brewing your favorite blend. Right away, please.
These are just a few examples of electronic awareness and convergence within an intelligent network. To help organizations make headway on their individual journeys to IoT, Oracle and Accenture have released a new report that explains the implications of IoT to the business world. The possibilities are staggering—but to understand the full impact, let’s step back and look at how IoT is already disrupting nearly every industry.
Already, manufacturing companies use IoT technologies to collect real-time data from shop floor devices and assembly lines. Sensor data helps logistics companies simplify load and dispatch operations, and also optimizes the routing of vehicle fleets. Utility companies gather usage data from smart meters to help their customers cut costs and conserve energy. Retailers gather IoT data from social media feeds, customer purchase histories, and location analytics to present personalized offers to shoppers. Municipalities monitor the status of streetlights and parking meters to reduce traffic congestion. Transportation companies place sensors on shipping containers to track the movement of shipments. Even farmers put sensors on their equipment to forecast crop yields and streamline production processes.
Clearly, IoT is making an indelible imprint on the business world. But in many cases these scenarios are more hype than reality. In order for IoT to become truly valuable, organizations need to figure out how to integrate new IoT processes with their existing information systems. Setting up remote systems and sensors is just the first step. The real value in IoT implementations comes when you can connect remote machines, devices, and sensors to the information assets of the enterprise.
Look around your company. Every department and business process probably depends on enterprise applications. The goal with IoT projects is not just to gather machine data, but also to analyze that data—and then use the insights to enhance your business. Oracle and Accenture address these issues. Their report focuses on IoT best practices, with attention to how Oracle is breaking new ground in seven areas:
Data storage and analytics: IoT applications produce lots of data that must be stored and maintained. Oracle addresses this data deluge with proven technology for storing, managing, and analyzing structured and unstructured data.
Understanding IoT services: Oracle IoT Cloud Service enables businesses to securely connect their existing infrastructure to any device that is generating data. It also helps you perform real-time and predictive analytics on that data—and use the results to impact business processes.
IoT meets cloud: Oracle offers a variety of PaaS and SaaS offerings, such as IoT Cloud Service, Mobile Cloud Service, and Integration Cloud Service. Once again, the objective is to combine IoT data streams and events with enterprise applications.
Gathering insight: Oracle Integration Cloud Service can aggregate IoT data with structured data sources. Oracle big data and business intelligence technologies can sift through that data to create actionable insights for decision makers.
Security: With billions of devices connected to the internet, how can you make sure that your information stays secure? Can a hacker use a cell phone or printer as a portal to your network? Oracle technologies address security at both the data and device levels.
The lingua franca of devices: Oracle owns Java, the software language that is embedded in most of the world’s intelligent devices. Enough said.
A cost-effective model that scales: Oracle has pulled together all the hardware and software elements that businesses need to create a unified IoT platform for device connectivity, control, and event analytics.
This is just a brief summary of the insights that Oracle and Accenture have put together in their report. See for yourself how Accenture’s skilled workforce and broad set of service offerings complement Oracle’s mature set of IoT technologies. As a long-time observer of the IoT phenomenon, I think it’s worth a read.