How the Internet of Things Is Changing Business Intelligence

23 Mar

When we think about business intelligence in simple terms, we think about gaining knowledge and using it to the business’ advantage. We use data about our customers and clients to better serve them in the future, whether it’s with new products or services or better support of current offerings. In the past we relied on customer feedback, often by word of mouth, to gauge how customer’s felt about a particular product or what their specific needs were. Today, we have devices that can transmit data about how a product is used in order to make it better. It’s called the Internet of Things; and its connection to business intelligence & Big Data is undeniable.

Big Data is the hot buzzword these days. We define Big Data as any data set too large to be quantified by traditional database standards. While relational databases are still widely used and extremely important to many businesses they often cannot handle the unique sets of data that are now being collected. We need something more. Many companies have come up with solid solutions in the MySQL space such a MongoDB, and the database power players like Oracle continue to roll out sophisticated products to solve the Big Data conundrum. However, this is only one piece to the puzzle. Enter the Internet of Things (IoT).

The Internet of Things promises a new way of collecting data about devices and users. These devices range from home thermostats to heart monitors to biochips for farm animals and much more. Internet of Things is generally defined as a “network of physical objects or ‘things’ embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service by exchanging data with the manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure.”

Ok, a little confusing, right? The simple way to describe IoT would be to say that our everyday devices and products will communicate data to manufacturers so they can monitor those products to improve them or learn more about how they are used. For instance, while it may be fairly common knowledge that we use the heat in the winter and A/C in the summer, we might not know how one household differs in their use or energy or temperature settings. What is the average thermostat setting in Minneapolis, MN in January? How often do customers change their temperature settings during a heat wave? Sure, these are very simple and somewhat mundane examples, but you get the idea. We’re looking for more insight, and that’s what the IoT is giving us.

Think about the medical field, the number of lives that could be saved or prolonged with simple monitoring using an IoT device? The possibilities are seemingly endless. This is where it gets really interesting. What do we do with all the data collected? How do we store it? How do we visualize this data? We have asked this question many times recently. The great thing about IoT is that products can now be designed with these questions in mind. We’ll now be able to design products and data benchmarks accordingly making it easier to determine what data we’re looking for and what to do with it when we obtain it. Thus making our “Big Data Conundrum” much less strenuous while allowing for quicker insights and better business decisions. This is not only a good thing for businesses but their customers too; companies make better products, customers are more satisfied.

One caveat that has some folks concerned is the issue of privacy when it comes to IoT devices. That’s a discussion for another day, and we’ll certainly have that debate. However, as it stands today the Internet of Things has the potential to change the way we do business, change the way we use common products and services, and ultimately change the way we live. It’s an exciting and somewhat scary notion. Some people are adverse to change, they like the way things are. Simple. Straightforward. The IoT and its Big Data cousin are not to be feared but embraced as they look to make things even easier for the masses.