It goes without saying that analytics is vital to the success of Internet of Things deployments, but more important is what data you analyse, what insights you gain from that data, and then how you act on those insights, according to a global executive at business intelligence company SAS.
“Realising the benefits of IoT requires analytics insights, derived from streaming data that can be combined with other relevant information from inside and outside the organisation,” said SAS’ senior director of global industry practices, Thomas Roehm.
In addition, Roehm said successful IoT deployments require a robust strategy that encompasses three essential disciplines: to be able to sense the right data, understand that data and then act on that understanding.
By implementing a “continuous analytics cycle”, organisations can adapt to new data and situations, and take full control of their IoT environments, he said.
Discipline #1: data sensing
Data sensing goes beyond simply attaching sensors to equipment and attempting to use every bit of data collected, Roehm said.
“Sensing is the act of listening to all of the relevant data and finding the signals among the noise, including data that’s coming from devices, data historians, social media and production systems, to name a few,” he explained.
Roehm said that organisations have to be ready to manage the pace at which IoT data is created, and that extracting the useful information from the data stream is only possible through the use of advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms applied to that data, particularly while in-stream.
Discipline #2: understanding data
“In-stream analytics analyses and takes actions on IoT data as it is being generated, detecting patterns of interest as they occur throughout the IoT ecosystem,” Roehm said.
This, he said, leads to understanding the data in the context of the environments in which it was created, which he terms “the full life cycle of analytics”.
“You need a system that can handle large, fast-paced and sometimes dirty data with a full range of analytics tools – including the ability to ingest data, visualise, hypothesise, and then test with statistics and predictive analytics,” he said.
He added that the results of such analysis need to be provided for a wide variety of users, from simple descriptive analyses to advanced predictive models.
Discipline #3: acting on insights
But understanding data is useless without action – and that action can only occur with the right technology, culture and processes, he said.
Roehm said that action can take a number of forms, including issuing alerts to particular locations or people, system responses to certain data patterns, or forwarding data to other areas for further investigation.
“When you can embed analytics inside operational systems as well as at the edge of the network, closest to the source data, you are given a stronger ability to act on your IoT data,” he said.
He also said that technologies that enable real-time decision management or automated responses can help add efficiencies to any action taken, but organisations should not rely on technology alone.
“You must have the right culture and processes to support decisions. Trusting the signals and conducting root-cause analysis will help,” he added.
The power of platforms
Roehm acknowledged that the analytics process within an IoT ecosystem is a highly complex one, but said that a modern analytics platform is capable of easing the burden.
“Instead of focusing on a set of ‘capability standards’ and choosing separate vendors for data integration, analytics and visualisation, you can accomplish all of those tasks with a single platform,” he said.
He said that the advantages of standardised analytics platforms mirror those of standardised ERP and office productivity platforms discovered years ago.
“As analytics grows in importance – particularly with the introduction of IoT data and the new business value it can provide – many IT organisations are recognising that sensing, understanding and acting are interconnected, [making] a more holistic platform even more important.”