Maximizing Big Data's Potential With the Internet of Things

Collecting data is just the first step. Before deploying an IoT solution, plan ahead and consider how you'll leverage data's value.
By Murali Nadarajah

The IoT is all about applying business processes, so the value is based on those organizations with permission to touch the right data and offer a service based on this analysis.

Start planning for automated, data-driven operations.
Companies need to fuse large amounts of data, from internal and external sources, with the use of machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. Machine-learning programs can teach themselves to adapt and improve when dealing with new data and situations. Businesses should consider updating their technology infrastructure to exploit this technology, in order to optimize the use of data and the IoT in organizations.

Be prepared to address privacy issues through a secure, agile and visible network that allows quick access to data and potential security breaches at all times.
There is no such thing as anonymous data; the ability to infer and correlate with machine-learning algorithms will allow the tagging and association of every piece of data back to the individual.

We used to believe that if we took data and anonymized it by removing names, we would protect the owner's privacy. But today's increasing sophisticated machine-learning algorithms can correlate transactions that appear completely unrelated—for example, a credit card transaction conducted in a store could be linked to a phone call made by the same person at that location. It would be relatively simple to correlate these separate activities if the user repeated it again at another site. So the traditional approach of removing standard identifying tags from data—name, age and gender—does not work anymore. Being proactive and having a system in place to protect consumer information, and the ability to locate and control potential threats, will be key to ensuring security

On the other hand, businesses can correlate seemingly random transactions and use them to look for patterns of consumer behavior, thereby producing marketing tools for creating personalized messages. For example, if I know (from your transactional history in my point-of-sale system) that you like vanilla ice cream, and (from the path you take through the mall, based on Wi-Fi records collected from your phone) that you usually buy a scoop after shopping at the local supermarket, then I can offer a coupon for a second scoop at a discounted price.

In closing, the Internet of Things is fundamentally changing the way in which companies are doing business. The IoT affects everything within an organization, from individuals to data to processes, and is enabling businesses to do more than was previously possible. The benefits are real and numerous, and the recommendations outlined here will assist companies in maximizing the burgeoning potential of Big Data in the IoT.

Murali Nadarajah, an experienced leader, consultant and entrepreneur specializing in business development, innovation and solutions in the systems technology arena, is the head of IoT and analytics at Xchanging, a near-$1 billion business technology and services company.

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