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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

The Four Pillars of Your IoT Strategy

We explain the four things your IoT project needs to be successful.

In a previous article I discussed the coming revolution of the Internet of Things and how it will transform your current business model. You will need to be able to react quickly as IoT initiatives begin to ramp up. In this column I will discuss the four pillars of success that will anchor successful IoT solutions: apply the basics, incorporate security, protect privacy, and be ready to execute.

Pillar #1: Apply the basics

Spend a significant amount of time understanding the many ways IoT can benefit your current business processes. There are many cases where IoT can be transformative, but try to take such change in smaller steps.

Instead of rapidly phasing out existing architecture and making larger investments, look at simpler approaches. An airline recently commissioned ideas for how to improve service. That's a tall order. Let's take a look at one small way that might work.

We know there are significant wait times for travelers at airports. An app used by the airline could let customers opt in and reveal their physical location (thanks to the availability of geospatial data). Customers can then spend time getting lunch or having a drink rather than waiting at the gate. However, that can cause anxiety if a customer is worried about missing a flight. One solution: an application that sends alerts to customers based on their physical location in the terminal. Fliers are notified when it's their turn to board. The airline can find a customer if necessary and retailers can offer deals while customers enjoy the bar. This isn't the whole solution to improving service, but it's one part of the solution that customers will appreciate.

Instead of developing complex solutions, begin with relatively low-cost, high-impact solutions that allow you to better connect with your customers. From there you can launch other ideas (such as putting seats up for exchange or offering last-minute deals).

The bottom line: keep it simple and get people to opt into your ideas.

Pillar #2: Incorporate security

We all have heard about the many types of breaches, which is why security is always going to be a top concern. The reality is that most companies do a good job of securing servers and putting up firewalls; they just don't realize the number of different components that make up an IoT solution.

Recently at the WSDJ Live conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about the massive change in automobiles, especially the primary focus on software. As multiple parts of the automobile begin to receive data from the engine, braking systems and other components are being "exposed" that had not needed high levels of security. Indeed, the software developers have probably never been exposed to security concerns because these were sealed systems. However, security cannot operate solely at the end points; it needs to be at every component.

Let's look at the utility industry, where meter readers are being replaced by smart meters that connect and send data wirelessly. When smart meters were developed, security requirements included Military Standard encryption. The reality was that the energy industry had never dealt with the type of security issues that smart meter technology created. Although encryption was used, simply removing a meter or reinstalling software to override information was never considered a possibility. Applying updates and patches is also difficult when you think about millions of meters being in the field and updating them remotely.

The bottom line: security at the component level must be combined with experts and the component developers to create and implement an effective, strategy.

Pillar #3: Protect privacy

The advent of the Internet has created a new set of laws about privacy; these laws are constantly in flux as corporations lobby to change them or simply ignore them. The sharing of personal data is going to be a huge frontier for IoT to manage.

The concept of social seating -- the ability to select where and with whom you sit on a plane, at an event, or in a rideshare car -- will become popular in the coming years. Initially, this seems a relatively innocuous concept. In reality, customers should be able to (or required to) opt in to share their information. Participants must be able to limit how much (and what) information is shared, and there will be different levels based on different people.

For example, if you share a ride with a friend, you are likely to want to share destination and other information. If you're sharing the car with a stranger, other rules or preferences may apply. You will want to know that the companies using that data apply that privacy correctly and maintain rules that you define. Make sure you can manage privacy at the individual level and at the group level. You'll also want to be able to change privacy settings (in a compliant manner) as privacy requirements are relaxed or enforced and as we continue to learn about the implications of those laws.

The bottom line: privacy laws can be complicated; be sure you're in compliance.

Pillar #4: Be Ready to Execute

Considerable thought needs to go into an IoT solution. Your IoT project will lead you to work with new technologies and may raise new problems such as security and privacy. Architectures may be completely new because business models need to be launched quickly and at a low cost. Therefore, consider a readiness assessment for business and IT to make sure that the team has the right people to deliver on IoT.

Programmers are beginning to replace database architects because of the demand for big data solutions and because the cloud is becoming the standard for spinning up quick proof-of-concept projects. Resources are scarce and highly compensated, so make sure you have access to the right people before you undertake an IoT project.

Organizational readiness also relies on the right type of roles at your organization. For example, the rise of the chief data officer and the chief analytics officer are a direct response from companies realizing they will need these roles to execute on IoT-related businesses. Imagine trying to get a business unit of a movie production studio to share data with a business unit of a music production studio. An IT leader has little chance of forcing compliance to deadlines or to generate agreement. Instead, higher-level managers must get consensus and shepherd initiatives that need data from multiple sources quickly. Consider your team from a technical perspective, generate a readiness assessment, and make sure your organization is set up to be able to execute.

The bottom line: have the right people in the right place to do the right job so you can execute your plan successfully.

Final Thoughts

Consider the four pillars as your starting point in IoT and remember that the pace of change will only increase, so preparation and forethought is key to your success. Leverage the four pillars to help you prepare and look to this column to dive deeper into the components of a successful IoT implementation. In following articles, I will highlight successful implementations from end to end in multiple industries, from utilities to entertainment.

About the Author

Asim Razvi is the vice president of education and research at TDWI. Focused on business intelligence (BI) for the last 20 years, he has launched and built large-scale consulting practices that have delivered complex analytics with a commitment to excellence for multiple companies including Accenture, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Cognizant. His background includes working on the data warehouse for the SCE smart grid project and building applications for demand forecasting, demand response, and mobile, as well as multiple geospatial monitoring and efficiency solutions. He has engaged and worked with Microsoft, HSBC, and many of the Fortune 500 to establish and implement their core BI road map and strategy. On the presentation circuit, he has delivered sessions on OLAP key competitive advantages for the Microsoft Global Sales Summit and core healthcare analytics with Microsoft at AHIP. He holds a degree in mathematics and computer science from California State University, Fullerton.

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