The Internet of Things (IoT) is defined by an enriched customer experience and the ability to engage with customers in completely new ways to increase customer loyalty and delight. IoT solutions are becoming more and more compelling as new sensor technologies enable the real-time collection of massive amounts of data and new analytics technologies make it possible to gain insight from all this data.
But another critical technology is required to knit all the “things” together and create useful products and services that deliver on the IoT promise: application integration.
Gartner, which describes IoT as “the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment,” writes “the Internet of Things will include 26 billion units installed by 2020. IoT product and service suppliers will generate incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion, mostly in services, in 2020. It will result in $1.9 trillion in global economic value-add through sales into diverse end markets.”
While other analyst firms, as well as universities, enterprises and other organizations are working hard to understand the underlying technologies and implications of IoT, many of us prefer to focus on some of the whiz bang use cases that are predicted to arise, many beginning with “smart”: smart cities, smart refrigerators, etc.
Information managers, however, must understand the relationship between IoT, big data and customer experience. At heart, the goal of most IoT initiatives is to deliver better services, whether it’s the use of wireless sensors in the Digital Oil Field or RFID tags on products in the supermarket. And the mechanism by which services are improved is less about the physical objects than how the data collected from these objects is used.
Most IoT use cases simply won’t work without application integration. Smart refrigerators may integrate information about personal preferences, products, retailers, social media sites and more. Applications in the Digital Oil Field may integrate information related to site location, the geology of the site, the site as a business asset, production values, supply chain information, etc. Let’s consider a use case in more detail.
Residential Proximity Services
Let’s say you’re on your afternoon commute, and when a GPS-driven application on your mobile phone detects you’re five miles from home, it automatically communicates with your house, signaling the thermostat to warm the house to a comfortable temperature and preheating your oven to a preset temperature, so everything is ready for you when you walk in the door.
On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a major technical challenge. However, accomplishing it requires integrating multiple applications, which is the key to a major advance in customer experience: the ability to automate this proximity service in ways that were unimaginable before. We’ve had timers on our thermostats and ovens for years, but they couldn’t automatically adjust if you were stuck in heavy traffic or decided to go out to dinner. And the more applications that are integrated, the more nuanced the automation can be.