Much like every conversation about technology over the last 10 years involved the term “mobile”, today’s conversations almost always include the Internet of Things (IoT). At a recent breakfast, we, too, got deep into this topic. But we found ourselves taking a step back from the details of where some device might constantly check your blood pressure to the “why” of such devices. The IoT seems complicated, and the workings of it are; however, the bigger picture is – or can be – simple. The IoT is made up of devices feeding us a continuous stream of data to enable us to make better decisions.
Another example that came up in my breakfast conversation was oxygen tank monitoring. If someone is “on oxygen” for medical purposes, running out of oxygen is bad. So, how hard would it be to attach a simple monitoring device to the oxygen tank to send a message to someone when that tank is almost empty? It’s no different than your car turning on a yellow light when your gas tank is nearly empty. That’s the primary function of such a device. However, that’s not the only job of that device, and it is a waste of resources to create, install, and use such a device only when the tank is t a certain level.
The point in time at which the oxygen tank is at a certain level is one point in time. What about the trends that got the tank to that level? Here are just a tiny few other data points and trends that this device could capture, since it’s already there:
- How long between refills?
- Average hourly usage during the day, at night, by hour.
- How long from refill alert to refill completion?
- Peak usage vs. lowest usage
- Oxygen tank efficiency (any leaks?)
The device is there already, so why not make the most of its presence with a constant stream of data? This data is the secondary value of the IoT. Everything can be connected to the internet. So, what things should be connected to the internet to provide us with a constant stream of relevant, useful data?
The answer lies in the “why” of the data. Will this data help us make better, more informed decisions? And that’s both what most people miss about the IoT and what is driving the most popular new job in tech: data scientist.
The original reason the device was attached to the oxygen tank was to alert someone that the tank is getting low on oxygen. The benefit of having the device on the oxygen tank is that it can give us far more data – nonstop data – on the usage and performance of the oxygen tank. But the “why do we need to connect everything?!?” answer is because better data lets us make better decisions.
The Simplified IoT
And that’s the simple version of the IoT. Connect everything for a constant stream of useful data to help us make better decisions. If you are building an IoT device, you must realize that the device, while it may be the tip of the spear, is only the tip. If you’re building an IoT device, you must make sure it is collecting the data, the right data for making helping people make better decisions.
Notice I said “help us make”, not “make decisions for us.” No matter what, someone always has to make the decisions, even the hard decisions. That job will always require a wise, experienced leader.