Rise of the machines: The Internet of Things

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Are devices that track our every move poised to unlock new potential in humankind or are they just downright invasive?

The privacy and security implications of a network of devices that tracks our preferences, our financial transactions, our location, and our health may seem alarming. The possibilities of using that data to glean deeper insight into human nature, however, are limitless.

“I think there are certainly lots of things that we have to be careful of, like privacy, in these oceans of data,” says Rick Smolan, former photographer for Time, Life, and National Geographic and creator of The Human Face of Big Data project and book. “I deeply believe that big data is going to have 1,000 times more impact than the Internet on our lives.”

Using big data for good, not evil

We may be in the “caveman era of big data,” as Smolan calls it, but manufacturers and researchers are already finding myriad ways to use big data to make lives better. He provides these examples:

  • Belkin customers who use their Conserve Insight Energy Use Monitor can see how much energy their devices and appliances use. The monitor shows operation costs and the amount of carbon dioxide produced by the electricity they consume.
  • Progressive Casualty Insurance Company can install its Snapshot device in your car to track your speed, location, driving habits, and number of people in your car. This can help parents ensure their teen drivers are safe behind the wheel. Progressive will also lower your insurance rates if you prove to be a safe driver.
  • Researchers at Manchester University in the United Kingdom have also created a helpful tool. They invented a carpet embedded with sensors that can immediately detect when someone falls and may be able to predict the likelihood of a future fall. Thanks to this innovative solution, seniors can safely live in their own homes instead of moving into managed care.

Device data as opportunity

Machine data presents an opportunity for your organization too. The challenge is to communicate the value of machine data to your customers. For instance, utilities use smart meters to measure customers’ consumption more accurately and at more frequent intervals. This provides better visibility to customers into consumption patterns during the month. Logistics and delivery firms track traffic and weather patterns to develop more efficient delivery routes that get packages to customers’ doors more quickly.

Ultimately, as more devices connect to the Internet of Things, your organization will be able to delve into machine data and find out how to make your customers’ lives better. Big data is an opportunity, rather than a burden.

“I think someday we’ll look back at 2013 as the year that our lives and our world started to change,” says Smolan. “Big data utilization is giving us this real time feedback loop we’ve never had before. I’m hoping it’s what will enable us as a species to address some of the biggest challenges that we face going forward.”

For more on the opportunity afforded tomorrow by today’s data, watch Smolan’s Informatica World 2013 keynote address.

undefined By: Rob Karel

October 2013 Edition:

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I deeply believe that big data is going to have 1,000 times more impact than the Internet on our lives.”—Rick Smolan, creator of The Human Face of Big Data project.