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Internet of Things

The Internet of Things: A new evolution for business

Joyce Shen  Global Director, Emerging Technologies

Joyce Shen  Global Director, Emerging Technologies

The “Internet of Things” (or “IoT”) is a concept that has been written about on technology blogs for a few years now, but most businesses are only just beginning to explore what IoT might mean for them.

OpenSensors is a London-based startup that is helping businesses begin to think meaningfully about the Internet of Things, from intelligent infrastructure management to open data.

As a leader in information services and insights, Thomson Reuters is committed to innovating around open platforms and open data, such as with our Open PermID. As IoT continues to emerge, we’ll look to partner with innovative companies such as OpenSensors, as well as with our clients, to further explore the potential opportunities around IoT open data and insights.

I recently sat down with Yodit Stanton, the founder of OpenSensors, to discuss her company and her perspective on the future of IoT in 2017 and beyond.

Yodit Stanton of OpenSensors, a sensor data company
Yodit Stanton of OpenSensors.

What is OpenSensors?

Yodit: OpenSensors works with businesses to understand the opportunities that sensor data will enable. We are constantly unearthing new business cases and applications for our clients as we dig into their data and business problems. While we manage the data part, we also work with hardware manufacturers and managed services providers who install and maintain the sensors.

We have a unique view of the entire IoT stack and data pipeline; from business cases, sensor installs, data gathering and insights that actually help transform businesses.

In your view, what verticals are getting the most adoption within IoT over the next 12 months?

Yodit: We see these areas getting rapid adoption in 2017:

Infrastructure

Building managers using IoT sensors for efficient management of office space (resource) utilization data for infrastructure planning, desk utilization planning or parking management. Architects using sensors for optimal design of new spaces.

Environmental data at the macro level

Earthquake and flooding data can be used to assure occupant safety and minimize financial loss. Air quality networks being rolled out by municipalities and organizations such as the United Nations.

Environmental data at the micro level

Community-based sensor networks around environmental data enabling a bottom-up approach to design and impact analysis to improve the communities’ environment.

Agriculture

Farmers deploying sensors to improve crop yields and farm management.

Global supply chain and automotive

Transportation data to monitor ship traffic, cargo loading/unloading status, truck availability, bridge positions, and minimize traffic delays.

Over time, aggregating data, generating insights, and making them shareable will help drive down implementation costs, especially as the sensors will be amortized over a wider set of use cases.

Beyond 2017, what trends do you see emerging with the increasing amount of IoT data and effective use of IoT data by businesses?

Yodit: We see three medium-term trends with major impact on businesses — better asset utilization, data visualization that better drives actual change (maps/floor plans/heat maps), and the combining of private and open / public data to gain insights.


Better asset utilization

Asset utilization and management will continue to gain traction and save companies significant expense by being able to:

  • Monitor industrial equipment on-the-fly.
  • Automatically schedule maintenance and repairs.
  • Expand throughput; for example, remote shipping sensors can be used to manage the infrastructure surrounding space-constrained resources like ports (shipping lanes, roads, and bridges). Using IoT sensors allows them to accommodate expansion by increasing throughput, making the system run more smoothly.

For example, we helped create this map of a busy port showing real-time marine traffic. You can view not only the utilization of shipping lanes, but also view the vessels’ position and destination.

Data visualization that drives change

Today, for most businesses most data still resides in an Excel sheet as a time series. We see more powerful use cases where the data overlaid on a map like the port shipping data shown above. This map visualization provides greater information density.

Another example is a floor plan with an office occupancy heat map — presenting a spatial view of the data that is more useful than what you would see in a spreadsheet. For example, bBelow is an office floor plan where we show the utilization of desks. You can also view the footfall in the busy corridors and the pattern of usage in the building for desks, conference rooms, and break rooms.

We did something like this for Zaha Hadid Architects, helping enable them to use data-driven design where they are able to better understand the client needs and take the guesswork out of the design process.

Extracting value from combining public and private data

Open data from community-based sensor networks will be combined with companies’ private sensor network data to get better analytics and better insights.

An example of this is combining parking data from private parking sensor networks with public data like weather data, traffic and road conditions, emergency information and advisories, special event information, and toll/pricing data. A parking management team can then monitor parking lot usage and provide more intelligent and optimized local information about parking space inventories, availabilities, and parking conditions by location for their customers.

By looking at patterns of usage, you get a granular understanding of how parking bays are used.


Can you talk a bit about commercialization of these use cases?

Yodit: There are strong commercial and social use cases driving IoT, and OpenSensors anticipates more and more demand from businesses.

Fundamentally, IoT sensor networks will be deployed by businesses and partners when the value of the insights they deliver exceeds the cost of deployment and ongoing management. At the individual level, when you care about the air quality around your children’s school, monitoring that data for their health becomes important.

In our work with clients in Europe and in the U.S., OpenSensors sees an evolution and paradigm shift in how physical infrastructure is managed – how shipping, cargo logistics and resource utilization will inevitably be optimized by data gathered and insights generated from sensor networks. These insights are relevant for supply chain management and global trade.

Based on our work with clients, as businesses and the general public become more familiar with real-time data, we expect to see more demands on specific environmental data to drive environmental improvements.

Second, we see businesses becoming more interested in marrying open IoT data with private IoT data to derive more insights. In the parking scenario, for example, understanding patterns of usage isn’t just about analyzing the data from parking sensors but also combining them with wider traffic and weather data.

What potential opportunities do you see for IoT in fintech?

Yodit: Tim O’Reilly said a couple of years ago: “You know the way advertising turned out to be the native business model for the Internet? I think insurance is going to be the native business model for the Internet of Things.”

For example, it’s interesting seeing car insurance companies adopting IoT using granular data to determine pricing.

Another interesting adopter of IoT in Fintech is in commodities trading — sensors give you a lot of data about conditions at the source of production and growing sites. It will be interesting to see the way futures pricing will change when traders have a lot of granular details made available to them much earlier in the cycle (such as knowing current soil conditions that will determine crop yield outcomes).

Any closing thoughts as we head into 2017?

Yodit: We see IoT moving from something that’s coming — as typified by the number of articles on the “connected fridge” — to something that is getting deployed for everyday use by businesses.

IoT is a mix of hardware and software components along with deployment and ongoing management, and this has certainly led OpenSensors to develop a broad cross section of partners that includes sensor manufacturers, other software suppliers, installation service firms, and information services companies. When we founded OpenSensors three years ago, IoT was just beginning; now it is getting quite a bit of traction.


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