Uncover the Hidden Powers of Big Data and the IoT

Lonnie Ayers

There is no doubt that the Internet of Things (IoT) is huge and will have an enormous impact on society, sooner, rather than later. Just how big is it? According to a recent IDC report, by 2020, we will create and copy 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes of data annually which by definition is big data. In this same report, it was estimated that by 2020 we will have 32 billion connected devices, all of which will be creating and transmitting a continuous stream of sometimes useful data.

That’s a lot of devices creating a lot of data. So will it be useful? According to IDC, only a small portion of the data is currently useful, and that number will rise, if and only if, useful scenarios can be found for it, and then successful usage will be dependent upon a lot of factors like adding meta data and tags to data that currently has neither, and therefore is contextless and largely useless.

In our experience, one useful exercise in coming up with useful scenarios is to simply apply brainstorming to current real-world scenarios and see where the exercise takes you.

brainstorming Use Cases

Some Refrigerators Have Been IP Enabled For a Long-Time

If you’ve been paying attention, manufacturers have been touting their refrigerators’ that are capable of connecting to the internet, yet the question remains, why?

IP Enabled Refrigerator
What is Your Refrigerator Up To?

Here is how we think that capability might fundamentally enable societal level transformation.

Imagine a not so distant future where your refrigerator is not only IP enabled but connected to the Internet as well. Imagine also that it has been upgraded substantially, and now includes a food scale built right into the surface of the inside of the refrigerator, as well as bar code scanners. Imagine further that all refrigerators everywhere have now been so equipped, and form a vast virtual network of miniature cold storage warehouses that happen to be co-located with the customer.

Global Network Skynet

With this highly networked arrangement you now have enabled several new scenarios, that both empower the consumer and change the entire food distribution network.

How so?

Because these networked freezers can now continuously monitor the usage of every single product stored inside them, consumers could quite easily aggregate their demand for products with a nearly infinite number of other consumers who also belong to the network of refrigerators and demand not just a coupon for a one-off purchase, but could come to behave much more like a big box retailer, i.e., order in bulk for maximum discounts, and demand delivery straight to the house (anybody think Amazon is building out their distribution network for any other purpose)?

An unfortunate side effect of this would be a significant drop in purchasing volume carried out in grocery stores, though not its complete elimination.

This ability to aggregate demand at the point of usage would also result in the rise of alternate highly optimized delivery models. Uber is already experimenting with delivery as a service; why not have it coordinate with the networked refrigerators in a region, and do automatic replenishment as a value added service?

These networked refrigerators would no doubt also come equipped with sensors that would allow you to track what you paid for them and what it is costing to own them in both energy consumption and maintenance cost. For the manufacturer, this could be both a blessing and a curse, because now there would be totally verifiable 3rd party validation of their products cost and reliability. This also means that should 100,00s of refrigerators suddenly be sharing performance data, so too could the owners, who could also purchase new ones in bulk and demand quantity discounts beyond anything currently offered to the likes of COSTCO or Wal-Mart, or else.

There is yet another possibility with these types of highly networked devices, currently infeasible for low cost appliances, and that is the idea of Performance Based Logistics (PBL) or Power by the Hour. The U.S. military has been moving to this model on many major weapons systems for well over a decade, and simply put, it means paying for performance, i.e., flying hours versus owning the plane. In our scenario, it might well make sense for consumers to simply ask their suppliers to provide their refrigerators at a per hour cost of refrigeration and let them ensure they keep them running. In fact, taken to its logical conclusion, the refrigerator manufacturers might pay your food supplier to use their appliances as that would allow them to remain a key player of what is, at its core, a supply chain.

Imagining these types of use cases is not only interesting, we believe it is critical to getting ahead of the power curve of the coming wave of innovation that this tsunami of data portends. To help you get started on getting a handle on the Internet of Things, we have prepared a white paper entitled “Understand the Use Cases of The Internet of Things” which you can get by pressing the button below.