The Internet of Things (IoT) is the latest hot topic that has captured the attention of businesses across all industries. At some levels this feels like the next version of “big data.” Since 2011 there are already more connected devices than human beings on the planet. There are predictions that by 2020 there will be between 26 and 50 billion connected devices. All these devices are creating a mountain of data, truly feeding the “big data” machine. However, IoT is not big data. Big data describes the larger concept of the increase in accessible data, IoT focuses on the technology that empowers and allows for big data.
Businesses and industries need to think differently about IoT, beyond the buzz. With an ever increasing number of devices, products and consumables coming on line, it is not just the fact they are adding data to the ecosystem but that this level of connectivity opens new possibilities for companies. New opportunities to measure processes, anticipate demand, predict outages, and determine more accurate reflections on the ground, just to name a few. Different industries will also need to approach IoT to determine how it has the potential to impact their particular supply chains. For example:
- In the consumer product space (CPG) firms like Costa Coffee are taking advantage of the lowering cost of sensors to equip their coffee vending machines. With their coffee dispensers being able to self monitor in real time, Costa is able to better track and understand exact usage patterns with how their customers are interacting with the vending machines. The ability to take advantage of these new sensors has allowed for Costa to better optimize their inventory replenishment.
- Companies like UPS are leveraging IoT when it comes to their fleet management, measuring over 200 variables from each one of their trucks. These sensors provide UPS with the necessary data to ensure their deliveries are done in the most optimal way. By some accounts this has increased a typical driver to complete 120 deliveries a day, up from the typical 90 before the technology was introduced.
- Heavy industry manufacturers like Caterpillar are placing sensors on all their products as well as the parts on each vehicle. The ability to gather data from not only all of their vehicles but the individual parts allows Cat to better manage their supply chain and their ability to service their fleets -- identifying service needs even before the customer is aware of them.
- The agriculture business is finding greater levels of efficiencies as well. For example, John Deere has added sensors to their machines. This allows farmers to optimize the usage of their machines - reducing down time and more effectively controlling fuel costs. Or look at how companies like Trimble are bringing smart navigation to the farm, ensuring farmers are working their fields in an optimal manner - even being able to auto steer the machines based on optimal routes around their fields.
These are just a few examples of how IoT is impacting a wide array of industries. Of course this creates more data and feeds the "big data" machine. But companies and industries need to think about how the ability to add sensors to a large array of their assets can revolutionize a multitude of aspects of their business. For many of these companies, the massive amount of data is not the main story. Rather it is the ability to have the technology to measure specific parts of your supply chain and business process that otherwise was unthinkable in the past. IoT is not about creating mountains of big data, but being able to tie in the "things" that give you the right data to improve processes.