Simplifying the Internet of Things Conversation

The IoT is one of a number of new sources, along with social media and wearable computing, which can be combined with data science, collectively as the Big Data Killer App for organizations.

We’ve all been in those sales meetings. The sales person kicks off the meeting by welcoming everyone and introducing the topic of discussion. Then the pre-sales expert drags everyone through their 100-slide PowerPoint deck with enough buzzwords and confusing phrases (at 9 point font, of course) to dull even the most engaged person.

I call these types of presentations the “Jabberwocky Strategy” because they remind me of one of my kids’ favorite poems, “Jabberwocky”, by Lewis Carroll:

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

It seems that the plan behind the “Jabberwocky Strategy” is to make the conversation so complicated, that the customer gets overwhelmed and has no choice but to buy from that particular vendor. Blinded by science, I guess.

Now the “Jabberwocky Strategy” is being applied to the “Internet of Things” (IoT). The IoT is already being declared the “big data killer app1”, so indispensable that companies cannot expect to survive without it. Much like we heard about social media three to four years ago and much like we’ll hear about embedded human sensors three to four years from now, IoT promises untold fortunes…but only if you buy your IoT products/services from me.

However, smart customers don’t act in an atmosphere of confusion and complexity; smart customers act when the conversation has been made as simple and straightforward as possible. Consequently, I want to take a very different approach. Instead of trying to overcomplicate the IoT conversation, I want to simplify it and provide a straightforward plan for how organizations can act today.

Internet of Things Conversation

A recent article on titled “IOT Is The Killer App For Big Data” introduces the IoT technology “layer cake.” I like this chart as it lays out the IoT ecosystem (see Figure 1).

IoT Technology Layer Cake

Figure 1: IoT Technology Layer Cake

However, I dislike the title of the article as IoT is not an app; IoT is data. The real “Big Data Killer App” is the ability for organizations to couple new sources of data, such as social media, wearable computing and IoT, with data science to make better decisions.

Making The IoT Conversation Actionable

The chart (and the article) stops short of telling me where and how I can leverage IoT. Consequently, I have added 4 steps (outlined below) to help simplify the IoT conversation and clarify what an organization needs to do to capitalize on the IoT.

Step 1: Begin With An End In Mind. Unless you make wearables and edge devices, IoT is just another data source for you. IoT is NOT an application. Much like social media and wearables data, now comes the IoT data and everyone loses their minds. But IoT is only data and having data is no guarantee of success. You have to do something with the data in order to create insight (value).

What operational or business initiatives are you trying to solve? The initiative could be machine downtime, for which you seek predictive maintenance. It could be network load balancing or capacity planning or demand forecasting. It could be any number of operational or business initiatives, but it is best to start with a targeted initiative in order to frame the rest of the conversation. Otherwise you just end up boiling the ocean and hope that something gets cooked in the process (other than your career). So let’s add Step 1 to the chart (see Figure 2).

Step 1

Figure 2: Begin With An End In Mind