A few years ago, big data and cloud computing were the hot topics. This year, it’s the Internet of Things (IoT). But just because new technology is hyped doesn’t mean it’s useful. With so much background noise from social media, white papers, and news stories, how can you extract the benefits from the buzz to determine what’s relevant for your day-to-day work and bottom line?
For example, if you follow IoT in the news, it seems like wearables are suddenly everywhere: Dick Tracy watches, athletic clothes with sensors, and even auto-dimming light bulbs in your home. But unless your business is watchmaking or lighting, how does that help you grow your business? What can IoT do to help you engage customers, increase productivity, or simplify processes?
IoT Can Help Lower Costs, Increase Safety, and Improve Productivity
The success of any given technology is often a function of its timing, and for IoT, the timing couldn’t be better. Because cloud computing and big data solutions have matured considerably, you can collect and analyze massive amounts of data like never before. IoT is your VIP pass for seeing what’s really going on behind the scenes, and then passing all that data through the cloud to servers for analysis. By analyzing data collected by Internet-connected devices, you can gain actionable insights into your business that let you react in near real time to problems, tweak inefficient processes, or identify new opportunities in ways that used to be difficult or impossible.
Enterprises are just beginning to explore the vast opportunities presented by IoT, but several intriguing examples already demonstrate how IoT has transformed data into cost savings, improved performance, and other benefits. Here are three compelling use cases.
Smart Energy Use and Management Lowers Costs
Systems integrator Capgemini has partnered with a large US electrical utility company to supply commercial customers with integrated Conservations Voltage Reduction (CVR) solutions. These solutions use specialized software that analyzes data from accurate, but inexpensive energy sensors that provide voltage, current, and phase information for key pieces of manufacturing equipment. As machines are switched on and off, the energy utility can view the effects on their grid and suggest large-scale savings for their clients based on when high-usage processes are run.
In another example, Daikin Applied—the world’s largest heating, cooling, and ventilation company—installed Intel Gateway Solutions for IoT into HVAC units. The sensors monitor and tune performance of compressors, supply fans, outdoor air fans, and other components for improved performance, as well as remote diagnostics, monitoring, and even fault detection.
Point Source Analysis in Manufacturing Reduces Downtime
IoT brings compelling opportunities for manufacturers to reduce downtime and increase productivity by analyzing real-time data. In its own factories, Intel piloted IoT data collection and big data analysis in a high-volume manufacturing environment. By gathering and analyzing data from the factory floor, researchers gained remarkable insight into the formerly complex, fragmented ecosystem. With those new levels of visibility and clarity, the company realized a scalable, end-to-end solution that provided actionable insights for increasing productivity. According to Intel, the new efficiencies are forecasted to save millions of dollars annually.
Smart Sensors on Trucks Save Fuel, Improve Safety, and Reduce Maintenance Costs
In another dramatic example, a freight trucking company combined the power of IoT, big data, and the cloud to improve driver performance, safety, and fuel efficiency. Saia LTL Freight takes advantage of the hundreds of sensors already located throughout its trucks to collect real-time vehicle data. By using the Vnomics platform powered by Intel technology, the company can collect and analyze the data to provide immediate feedback to drivers on fuel economy and potential issues. For example, drivers were able to learn efficient progressive shifting techniques through real-time feedback on monitors in the trucks. The change in driving habits led directly to a seven percent reduction in fuel use in a year. Seven percent translates to a whopping 3.6 billion gallons of fuel, which reduces carbon dioxide emissions by an impressive 38 million tons annually.
Harmonic Convergence: Big Data, Cloud, and IoT
All of these examples show what’s possible from the union of big data, cloud computing, and IoT. Large-scale data collection and aggregation from remote sources is only recently a realistic, affordable endeavor thanks to newer processing chips, such as low-power Intel Quark SOCs or Intel Atom processors. You can use Intel Gateway Solutions for IoT to connect your legacy devices to the cloud for aggregation of all that data. And on the back end, you can deploy servers powered by efficient Intel Xeon processors running Cloudera analytics solutions to convert all the raw data into actionable intelligence for adapting or growing your business.
Moving all that data through the cloud opens the door to potential data theft, but industry standard protocols and interfaces help ensure better security and integrated management for these broad-spectrum technologies. For example, Wind River Intelligent Device Platform makes use of Open Mobile Alliance Device Management (OMA DM) to provide connectivity and manageability of cloud-connected devices. McAfee Embedded Control ties into Intel Gateway Solutions to guard against unauthorized code changes by using application whitelisting and change control. And finally, servers, devices, and gateways built on latest generation Intel processors and SoCs automatically benefit from Intel hardware-enhanced protections built into the silicon.
We might not be ready for a world of connected refrigerators, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t big opportunities for IoT in the enterprise. With the rapid growth of cloud computing and the ability to process massive volumes of data in real time, the stage was already set for disruptive technologies to emerge. With the addition of IoT to the mix, we can fuse the benefits of all three technologies into truly transformative, innovative solutions for businesses.
 David McKinney. “New Smart Energy Program Helps Maximize Profit and Efficiency.” October 3, 2014. http://blogs.intel.com/iot/new-smart-energy-program-helps-maximize-profit-efficiency/
 Terri Blake. “IoT and Smart Buildings: Harnessing Big Data to Deliver Savings.” July 31, 2014. http://blogs.intel.com/iot/iot-smart-buildings-harnessing-big-data-deliver-savings/
 David McKinney. “IoT and Big Data Analytics Pilot Bring Big Cost Savings to Intel Manufacturing.” September 28, 2014. http://blogs.intel.com/iot/iot-big-data-analytics-pilot-bring-big-cost-savings-intel-manufacturing/
 Intel Tech Today Video Series Episode 3: Vnomics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o4V19Ttr0I