I want IoT in my business! But where do I start?
“We need IoT!”, “Tell us more about your IoT offering”, “When can we have IoT?”
These are some of the soundbites that I hear a lot from our clients.
From my experience, the technology is way ahead of the needs of most of the organisations that are trying to evaluate and implement it. Many organisations I speak to just want to implement a small-scale IoT project – but where do they start?
For those unfamiliar with the term “IoT” or “Internet of Things”, it is probably one of the most popular buzzwords at the moment. The Internet of Things is essentially about connecting multiple devices together over the internet, and letting them talk to us, applications and each other. For example, your smart TV can be considered an IoT device.
Other common examples include home heating and energy consumption monitors such as Nest and Hive, which allow you to monitor and adjust your home environments via your smart device.
So you think IoT could really help your business, but where do you start?
To answer this question, let’s use a hypothetical example.
Let’s say that you’re a hotel that needs to monitor noise in your rooms in order to save your guests from noisy neighbours and improve their stay.
So, embarking on your IoT journey you immediately have some decisions to make.
What am I monitoring and where?
Starting nice and simple, what’s the value you need to record and how is it measured? For simplicity’s sake, we’ll assume that the value is ambient noise and that it’s measured in decibels as a decimal number.
The ‘where’ in this case is easy too, as it’ll be a hotel room.
We can also assume that it’s a non-hazardous environment (you can easily source IP-rated sensors for hazardous ones too).
How frequently do I want to capture my IoT data?
So at first glance, this should be a simple question too. Not so fast. A lot of decisions you make here will impact your solution further down the line. Generally I’ve found that customers want to go overboard. Do you really need to record data every 15 seconds, or would every 5 minutes suffice?
What’s the end goal?
It’s key to think here of your end goal. As a rule you want the absolute minimum to achieve your business objective. In this scenario, whether we know in 15 seconds, or after 5 minutes is generally irrelevant. In more mission-critical scenarios, these timeframes could be unacceptable, but they’re just fine for our hotel example.
The reason why the method and frequency of collecting data is important is all down to power. How much juice is your IoT device going to need to run and how is it going to be supplied? Do you have the ability to provide mains power to your IoT device, or does it need batteries? Then you’re into the calculation of total cost of ownership (TCO) since batteries need replacing. That also means people to replace them too!
The easiest rule of thumb here is to think that the more quickly you capture and report data from a sensor, the more complex the calculations you’ll need to put in place on the device. The more complex the calculations, the greater the amount of power you’ll need to run it. This subsequently means that your batteries will deplete much faster. Imagine making 100 calls from your mobile phone to someone when in essence, a single call would do – how quickly would your phone battery run out?
Again, think here in terms of the minimum output you need in order to achieve your business objective and then scale up from there.