The Internet of Everything Doesn’t Have to Literally Mean ‘Everything’

Internet of Everything
The Internet of Everything Doesn’t Have to Literally Mean ‘Everything’

In the days of yore (you know, the 1990s), I heard many IT specialists decry the rise of “JBOD” architectures, which meant “just a bunch of disks.” The alternative to JBOD was actually managing and storing data in an intelligent way that it delivered maximum benefits to the business.

Lately, we’ve been seeing the rise of another JBOD specter – in this case, meaning “just a bunch of data.” Everyone is trying to get on board with the so-called Internet of Everything – or Internet of Things (IoT) – and this is making the jobs of data executives and specialists a whole lot more interesting. There’s a push to capture and store every morsel of data that comes through the enterprise, with the vague assumption that someday, somehow, people will figure out how to wring value from it. It’s the digital equivalent of the hoarder who has a house stacked from floor to ceiling with magazines and newspapers that he or she hopes to catch up reading someday.

The amount of data and potential connections from billions of devices, sensors and applications may seem daunting, but moving forward with IoT can be built at a more human scale. As Bill Briggs, CTO of Deloitte Consulting, said in a recent TechCrunch article, “strategies should focus on bounded scenarios – where a small collection of intelligent or connected devices can solve old problems in news ways or solve brand-new problems only approachable given the rise of the IoT.”

An IoT approach can start with just a few data streams or devices, and grow incrementally from there. Importantly, Briggs emphasizes, “the solution lies not in the internet of everything, but rather the internet of some things, which may include brand-new investments in new “smart” assets.”

Organizations need to focus on the data flows that matter – and develop ways to move it quickly and seamlessly to the applications or people who need the insights. This means working closely with the business to design systems and processes that have maximum impact where it is needed. In a recent report, Deloitte’s Andy Daecher and Tom Galizia say this is ultimately enabled by integrating information flows between devices and businesses, enabling analytics to detect signals of significance, and orchestrating these signals with appropriate business processes.

Taking these steps moves things toward what Daecher and Galizia refer to as “ambient computing” – a higher state of order that elevates IoT “beyond enabling and collecting information to using the fabric of devices and signals to do something for the business, shifting the focus from the novelty of connected and intelligent objects to business process and model transformation.”

This doesn’t just happen in the data center. Daecher and Galizia point out that getting value from data means building together “a wide range of devices, vendors, and players—from partners to competitors, from customers to adjacent parties (for example, telecommunication carriers and mobile providers). Many of the more compelling potential scenarios spill across organizational boundaries, either between departments within a company, or through cooperation with external parties.”

The bottom line: effective IoT efforts will need to be chosen wisely and with great care. Briggs elaborates on his colleague’s report, providing three bullet points that need to be at the fore of any IoT effort:

Connect with care. “Contrary to popular opinion, not every device, object, or person needs to be Wi-Fi-enabled or embedded with other whiz-bang gadgetry,” Briggs points out. For those connections that are made, security needs to be a top priority.

Beware of the big data effect. While IoT and big data are joined at the hip, one can operate without the other, Briggs says. Focusing on big data and a grandiose big picture strategy may distract efforts to capture and develop insights from datastreams that can make an immediate difference. “Most organizations don’t need a grand unified theory of IoT – definitely not up front, likely not ever.  Instead, focus on the small ball: concrete problems with purposeful intent.”

Keep your eye on the finish line. As with every key business efforts, metrics are important – particularly those that tell you how the business is performing. “Before embarking on a mission to garner more data and more insights just because you can, make sure what you are enabling can be explicitly linked to improved business processes or impact,” says Briggs.

The key is you don’t want to end up being responsible for just a bunch of data, in the terabyte to petabyte to exabyte range. You want to be delivering insights that make a difference to your business.