1066RA The Role of Sensor Data in the Boundary-free Enterprise™
What is Happening? Cloud, Mobile, and Social applications have competed for their places in the enterprise over the last few years. Now that these interrelated applications have emerged as part of the new master architecture, which Saugatuck has termed the Boundary-free Enterprise™, we believe that businesses will be able to refocus their IT teams to expand business capabilities, rather than concentrating so much of their time on renovating and maintaining existing systems (1054RA, The Emerging Master IT Architecture – Client / Server Gives Way to CMSA, 12 April 2012). We expect sensors and sensor data generated from real-world conditions and activities will be leveraged to enable IT departments to deliver real-time business value, and will make an important part of the expanding business and IT capabilities in this new Master Architecture.
Why is it Happening? Sensor data can create real-time Information streams, which provide information about business processes, computer systems, and environmental changes. In addition to dedicated sensor hardware such as gas flow meters, seismic monitors, or GPS devices, reporting software or hardware can often be added on to leverage existing sensors and to create real-time data streams. Some examples of this include temperature and drop sensors in laptops to identify systems which may be running incorrectly (or have been damaged) and leveraging accelerometers in smart phones to judge daily physical activity. Because sensors provide information in streams, though, they represent both a problem of building out infrastructure of the sensors themselves as well as and managing the information that must be stored and analyzed.
Sensors are not limited by physical location, and are particularly useful because they are able to provide information from outside legacy business systems and the firewall. The uses cases are not all limited to internal improvement either. Organizations may find that their data is relevant to their partner ecosystems as well, and we fully expect that as the volumes of information increase, the inter-company trade of information streams and analyses will grow as well. Inventory tracking systems in global supply chains are already used in this capacity when dealing with physical assets and locations, and the information supply chain that arises from the trade in data will begin to generate new and similar inter-business linkages.
Unlike existing systems, however, there is much less standardization and no simple best practices that will direct early adopters to success. Unlike CRM, ERP, or invoicing technologies, sensor deployments are going to be targeted and problem-specific for each company that uses them. Even in similar use cases, the exact information gathered by the sensors may be different. Despite this lack of extant guidance though, innovative companies are already leading this market and gaining business value, even from relatively simple solutions.
Market Impact The emerging master architecture, centered on the disciplines of Cloud, Mobile, Social and Analytics represents a paradigm shift for IT departments. For many years, IT departments have tacitly admitted that they were unable to allocate much, if any, budget to innovation of bringing new capabilities to the enterprise. One of the core tenets of this emerging master architecture though, is that as more systems become streamlined, upgrade cycles become automatic, and more and more software is delivered as-a-service, IT department budgets and time allocations will be able to dedicate more focus to enabling the business.
One of the core areas where we expect IT to expand, therefore, is into information gathering to help the business make more informed decisions. The last 2-3 years have already witnessed the explosion of Big Data engines over the last few years – systems designed to allow the rapid and efficient analysis of large, complicated datasets such as social media streams or clickstream traffic. While this data now is primarily coming from people and digital services though, we expect that to provide additional information to the business, generating real-world rather than all digital information will be very important.
Big Data analytics have already opened the gateway to leverage existing software and Cloud-based platforms designed to handle the volumes of data likely to be generated by large-scale sensor deployments. Already some packages are well-suited to handling the types of structured streams generated by sensors, and while the notion of sensor information is not new, the ability to process the data streams and model the information gathered is. The capabilities of modern software, the improved sensor hardware that allows more complicated data to be gathered, and the lower cost of entry due to enabling technologies such as Cloud platforms will enable the widespread use of sensors across enterprises that may not have previously found the information useful or affordable.
The certainty about these systems is that there will be an ever-increasing need for compute resources in order to handle the growing complexity of recursive models. As every piece of data is used to improve existing historical models, the complexity and length of the calculations will also grow. Already software platforms from IBM and HP are being developed to manage this new type of infrastructure and data. We expect many of the existing players in the Big Data space to dedicate resources to this area as well.
The potential of sensor data to prove transformative value for enterprises is dependent on a company’s full technology stack. The emerging master architecture of Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Analytics are all necessary to extract the full value from these new data streams. Mobile solutions provide a means for the data to be transmitted, viewed, and acted upon in real time, independent of location. Social and collaboration tools will be necessary to collaborate and act on the information streams. Designing better methods of interaction with these data streams will be of critical importance, just as the data streams themselves become more pervasive across business disciplines. Finally, the underlying expandability of the Cloud is the enabling force for advanced and scalable analytics. As the network of sensors grows, the information fed through all these systems will enable greater visibility, and transparency, of a business than ever before.