IoT data: don’t ask how, ask why.

Chris Burton
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On: 15 Nov 2018
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IoT data

There is a mountain of data available within your business, but there’s no point collecting and storing it simply because you can. Collected selectively and analysed effectively, it can be a highly valuable resource.

Knowledge relies on information and data is simply another name for information. However, it must be the right data; collected in the right way, analysed, understood and acted upon, to turn it from a cost to an asset. This is why it is essential to know why you are seeking data, before you even consider how to collect it.

Is it going to address an issue or challenge in your business? What is the change you are looking to effect? Will the data help improve your customers’ experiences and in turn increase sales? These questions help build a framework, which informs decisions on data collection, storage and application.

Avoiding a raw deal.

Once it’s clear your business has a real need for IoT data, it’s a matter of deciding how to collect and use it to best achieve your goals. The commoditisation of IoT technology, its increased reliability and the breadth of its applications have made it easier to gather more data, more quickly. It has also made it easier to have too much data to be able to do anything useful with. That’s why a pre-defined data strategy is essential.

The first step is to decide on your data collection parameters. IoT makes it possible to collect data from a huge range of sources, including industrial control systems, wearables, sensors, tablets and other devices running business applications. Based on the goal of your data collection, you will be able to decide which of these sources are useful and what information is relevant. Your goal will also inform how frequently the data needs to be collected – whether in real-time, hourly, daily or less frequently.

Now you have the data you need in a quantity you can work with, the next step is to transform it from its raw state into something manageable, informative and actionable. By taking apparently disparate pieces of information, bringing them together and analysing them through the lens of your business goals, you will be able to derive new insights. These in turn will enable you to make more-timely, better-informed decisions, which will drive new actions to make your business smarter, more responsive and more efficient – at lower cost.

Flexibility is key for long term return.

You’ve established the purpose of your IoT data, set the parameters of its collection and turned the raw data into actionable information, but that is not the end of the story. Data is a journey, not a destination.

Data is a journey, not a destination.

The data you find valuable and useful will change over time as your business changes, your goals change or your customers’ expectations change. This is why you should ensure the physical network you have in place for collecting data is flexible and adaptable. It also needs to be secure – though not necessarily impregnable.

Getting the balance right with security.

A great deal of time, effort and money can be invested in achieving absolute security for data that is of little interest or value outside your business. Does it really matter if someone else discovers the operating temperature of a piece of your process equipment, for example? If the cost of making data secure outweighs the value of the information, then hit pause. Security is relative, it’s not black and white. The only caveat is to be certain your level of security doesn’t leave a back door open, which could allow access to data that is sensitive or confidential.

Data addiction.

Unfiltered, unanalysed, not-actionable data is too much data – whatever the quantity. However, once your business has experienced the business of quality data, you will feel it is never enough. In fact, in my experience, you will have seen the benefits your business is deriving from IoT data and will want more within 12 months.

As long as you follow the guidelines established above, this is an addiction that will do more good than harm.