“Junk in, Junk Out” – so goes the common phrase when it comes to the data that is fed into any process or algorithm and the corresponding results. Bad data, or data that lacks veracity, can not only produce inaccurate information, but also catastrophic results. Such is the case when considering the future of the IoT - data is key, but not just any data....valid and accurate data.
The IoT world is expanding exponentially, connecting a cornucopia of devices to a ubiquitous network. To date, most of these devices connect in ‘siloed’ ways, having little interaction with other IoT devices in any significant way. This eliminates some of the complexity and potential sources of conflicts that can be present in an environment where multiple devices are tracking and sending a variety of specific data into a system designed to analyze and interpret the this data to produce decisions, actions, and responses.
As an example, envision a system where IoT devices are capturing and sending data, but in a time sensitive and synchronized way. The IoT “future could be stalled by our lack of effective methods to marry computers and networks with timing systems,” according to a recent article by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Consider the following example provided by NIST:
“For a driverless car to decide whether what it senses ahead is a plastic bag blowing in the wind or a child running, its decision-making program needs to execute within a tight deadline. Yet modern computer programs only have probabilities on execution times, rather than the strong certainties that safety-critical systems require.” The difference in the way timing of messages are managed is described by NIST as being analogous to synchronizing the time between your watch and a friend’s watch by you writing the current time on a piece of paper and sending it to them by postal mail. Time synchronization technology must improve in order for a connected system of IoT devices to work effectively in such environments.
Another example of where data veracity is of utmost importance is in the health care arena. Each year, thousands of devices are brought to market claiming to measure your steps, body temp, heart rate, blood pressure, etc. Most of the time these measurements (and results) should be considered recreational, that is, carrying little to no real significance – it’s a game to one’s own self, trying to improve upon these metrics to portend an improved sense of health, real or not. Precise and truly predictive vital statistics outside of a proper hospital environment simply do not exist in any mainstream manner.
Nevertheless, the promise of home health care, medical analytics, and real-time monitoring and reporting is envisioned and much anticipated. But this vision will not be realized on the backs of today’s wearables, where the tracking of body metrics is inconsistent. The Wall Street Journal highlighted recently that most wearables were off by 10-15% compared to precise laboratory measurement equipment in an article published earlier this year.
The key message is that data is the lifeblood of the 3rd platform and the essence of the Internet of Things. But the absence of accurate data in this context will hinder the advancements of the IoT by introducing inaccurate or inconsistent results, which could ultimately end in havoc.
The future of the IoT is real, but it will happen slowly and deliberately, in concert with the necessary technology that will be introduced and integrated to guarantee data veracity.