The universe of IoT is expanding. The everyday thermal sensors, doorbells and activity trackers are being joined by increasingly sophisticated devices. These include ingestible medical sensors, wearables for cows that monitor fertility and lactation[i] and even contact lenses that have come to the IoT party.[ii] This growth results from a perfect confluence of Industry 4.0 technologies. The growth in edge devices such as your smart phone, drones and even NASA’s International Space Station that spew 28TB of data every day, has combined with pervasive connectivity, powerful cloud systems and streaming analytics to harness the incredible torrent of data. We are now poised at the threshold of an Era of Exponential Intelligence.
The technologies available today allow organizations to extract Continuous Intelligence (CI) from their data. Combine them with 5G and — boom! — we have a potent mix that allows us to retire traditional Business Intelligence (BI) tools crumbling under the speed and scale that organizations demand. These BI tools and dashboards are being replaced by ‘Always On’ CI or what may come to be called Active Intelligence.
Imagine the impact of CI on the practice of Agile, DevOps, CI/CD pipelines, fraud detection, risk management, supply chain visibility and customer support. They will undergo exponential transformation. With the right IoT infrastructure, businesses won’t need to use laborious observation and intense measurement to optimize processes. Instead, they can optimize every moment of manufacturing, transport, logistics, agriculture, energy generation, health care, retail, and financial services.
One of the leading reasons we will see a spike in IoT budgets across industries is the lure of providing on-the-fly and in-the-moment awareness to decision-makers using a variety of data streams. According to research from one market intelligence and advisory firm, the global IoT market is expected to reach a value of $1,386.06 billion by 2026 from the $761.4 billion it was in 2020, at a CAGR of 10.53%, during the period 2021–2026.[iii]
Technology companies are steaming ahead with interesting partnerships in the IoT space. They don’t want to miss this window of opportunity. Cisco is partnering with Microsoft for a service called Cisco Edge Intelligence to assist businesses with pre-integrated solutions that move their data from IoT edge to the Microsoft Azure IoT Hub. The partnership makes it simple to work with a variety of data types and connectivity protocols which are the primary challenges that organizations will face when setting up their CI strategies.[iv] IBM is collaborating with Sund & Baelt, which owns and operates civil infrastructure, to design AI-powered IoT solutions to extend the lifespan of bridges, tunnels, highways and railways — infrastructure that appears to be strong and stable but where CI can make a difference not previously possible in the world of civil engineering.[v] Fobicom, which provides end-to-end IoT wireless communication solutions is partnering with Ericsson with an eye on 5G markets.[vi] There are scores of such partnerships making CI an everyday reality.
IoT related CI will become central to a world finally getting accustomed to, and feeling comfortable with, mobile and remote technologies. One recent survey has shown that 88% of C-level executives are certain their organizations stand to gain from CI with 76% planning to employ it within the next year. As much as 62% of executives polled said that CI was a new approach to data that organizations will need to embrace as they become more software driven.[vii] CI could be the key to delivering the outcomes promised by digital transformation programs.
Just spending a few moments thinking how CI could change the world is revealing. As an example, the IBM-Sund & Baelt partnership will result in adding 50 to 100 years to the lifespan of Denmark’s Great Belt bridge which, at 6,790 meters, is the third-longest suspension bridge in the world.
Here is another CI-will-change-the-world scenario: Owners of oil and gas operations could use sensors embedded in their pipelines to acquire continuous data on the pipeline’s physical condition (corrosion, leaks, material stress, mechanical and structural integrity, damage from human activity, deformation from slow-acting geological and environmental changes). The real-time data can be processed on a cloud-based analytics platform that leverages computer vision, AI and analytics to automatically flag issues. These pipelines often run across remote areas where it is difficult and expensive to send teams for routine monitoring of infrastructure. CI will reduce the cost of monitoring and maintenance by several magnitudes.
The foundation for CI will be IoT. Anyone who has used vast amounts of data already knows the value of data decays rapidly. Research has shown that for tactical decision-makers the average half-life of data is 30 minutes or less (some companies have reported a half-life of six seconds); for operational decision-makers the half-life averages 8 hours; for strategic decision-makers it is 56 hours.[viii] Beyond that, the value of data falls steeply although, it must be admitted, there is no substitute for historic data, in most cases, when it comes to long-term trend analysis and strategic planning.
One way to see the deteriorating value of data is to look at different industries. Of what use is data on soil condition or crop infestation to a farmer after 24 to 48 hours? Of what use is fraud detection to a bank if it can’t be flagged on the swipe? We could even ask the question, of what use is data to regulators if it cannot prevent breaches in compliance and only help penalize organizations after the fact?
No one will blame you if you have grown tired of the phrase “data is the new oil”. But here is the good news: Data, unlike oil, will only increase in supply. As the supply grows on the back of IoT, so will its value.
Founder, Chairman and Managing Director, Microland Ltd