The Art of Creating IoT Insights
One of the biggest opportunities created by the Internet of Things (IoT) is the ability to use data to generate surprising new insights that guide you to act. But what are insights? Where do they come from? And how do we create them?
True insights are generated by using multiple data streams to anticipate, predict and influence behavior to create new value for someone.
Before we explore what insights are and how they are generated, let’s start with what insights are not.
Display does not equal insight
Insights aren’t merely observations. Observing is important, and we’ve helped many organizations do just that. This is typically done through dashboards, which are a great way to visualize data and monitor everything from energy consumption to operating temperature to utilization and capacity. But visualization doesn’t necessarily lead to insight because, while it informs, it typically does not anticipate, predict and support action.
Consider your car dashboard. Visually, it can tell you how fast you are driving, how much gas or electric charge is left on your vehicle, your direction, the outside temperature or a host of other things – but that’s just information. However, when your smart, connected car detects that the weather is extraordinarily hot on part of your upcoming route, determines that it poses a risk to your older engine, logs the issue, suggests an alternate route and points you to a local dealership for further attention– that falls into the category of insight.
Use data to create value
Every insight begins with a use case, and at the core of a use case is the question, “What problem do I want to solve?” If a car runs hot, the use case is guiding the worried driver back to having a smooth-running vehicle with minimal effort.
The use case must create concrete value for someone or some purpose. Are you looking for greater efficiency in your business operation? Do you want to identify new extensions to your business model? Are you trying to give your customer a better experience, make them happier and more loyal?
At the simplest level, insights enable you to anticipate something is going to happen and automate actions based on events. Typically this involves the use of data analytics and AI algorithms to predict behaviors, address needs, and seize opportunities well in advance of things happening. For the many companies whose business model is dependent on machines—from utility companies to coffee shops—both insight into how well their machines are operating and automated issue resolution are critically important.
At its highest level, data generated by an IoT system can be combined with operations data (e.g., lead generation, sales, cost of goods) and customer experience data (e.g., customer satisfaction, net promoter scores, service calls) to go beyond efficiencies and identify entirely new processes and business models that give you competitive advantage in the marketplace.
As you analyze potential value, consider the cost of creating your insight. You’ll want to invest the least possible amount of hardware, software, data, and labor to achieve the maximum dollars-and-cents impact. That will, of course, increase its value.
Tailor your delivery
No insight is an island. When you hear the word insight, always think, insight for whom? Perception is reality here—if you’re delivering too much, too little, or the wrong information all together, the recipient will see no value in it. Consider a hospital that has networked all of its patient monitors and continuously analyzes the data, discovers patterns and makes predictions. There are potential insights in that work for nurses, doctors, the chief of surgery, procurement VP, facilities manager, CFO, HR chief and CEO, but you can’t give the same insights to everyone: the relevance to each person will be unique to their role.
Also, consider how you will present the insight. If the insight is designed to prompt human action, present it in the best format for human consumption, whether that’s a diagram, chart, table, audio alert, flashing light, email, phone call or digitized task. Again with an eye towards value, the best way to ensure insights are acted upon is to automatically insert them into an organization’s existing workflows and supporting business systems.
In short, sharing insights is like telling a story. Tell the story to yield the desired result. Make it a page-turner.
Make a plan
When it comes to IoT, insights don’t just happen – they are planned for. Insights come about when there’s a clear objective or purpose in mind. That purpose allows you to architect a system that will use the right data, from the right sources, in the right way develop an insight that can lead to action.
As one example, we’ve worked with developers to create one of the smartest buildings in North America. Located in Chicago, this building can identify employees and visitors approaching the building and direct them to the right parking space. While individuals are parking, the building will notify others about who is arriving. Once the individual goes through the front door, the building anticipates the best meeting room, then reconfigures the audio-visual needs and sets the temperature and lighting according to preference. Not only will the building anticipate a person’s actions and behaviors, it will record the behavior and use that data to generate new information and insights that can improve the customer experience of people who visit in the future, while making the building more efficient and environmentally friendly.
This unique experience demonstrates the value of inserting tailored insights, those that both automate and predict, into an automated workflow.
Unfortunately, a lot of ideas or insights never realize their full potential because they are not communicated in the right way to the right people. To be real and meaningful, insights should be considered a “closed loop” system. They require careful planning, smart targeting, clever implementation, and good communication. With it, insights can transform your business and perhaps even an industry. Absent that, the search for insight can be a lot of wasted time and money.
Lou Lutostanski is the vice president, Internet of Things (IoT) for Avnet. In this role, he works across the company to help customers bring new IoT products to market, from idea to production. This includes working with entrepreneurs, startups, leading technology OEMs and other IoT innovators to implement IoT strategies leveraging Avnet’s global reach and product development expertise.