IoT will generate a slew of data, but how valuable is it?

Sue Marek

SAN JOSE, Calif.--The Internet of Things, or the concept of intelligently connecting devices using sensors and wireless modules, is a huge area of opportunity for nearly every telecom and IT company. In fact, at the Cisco Global Editors Conference held here this week, the company said that it estimates that the Internet of Everything--which Cisco defines as the networked connection of people, processes, data and things--will generate $19 trillion in value between 2013 and 2022.

Of course, key to this IoT vision is that all those connected people and devices will result in the collection of a tremendous amount of data in a variety of different formats and protocols. In a Cisco-commissioned report on the value of IoT, researchers provided some insight into exactly how much data is likely to be generated every day. For example, a jet engine generates 1 TB of data per flight and a refinery generates 1 TB of raw data per day. In addition, sensors, which are a key part of IoT, are expected to generate about 40 percent of all data by 2020. And cars alone are expected to have as many as 200 sensors per car.

Currently, about 98 percent of the data generated by connected devices is not being captured and analyzed into any useful format. But, even if it was being processed and analyzed, how much of that data would actually be useful?

Clearly Cisco is betting on the usefulness of that data. Cisco SVP and CMO Blair Christie said that, of the 1,200 or so global organizations surveyed by the research firm, 40 percent said they needed to improve how they leverage the data that they receive.

Admittedly, all that data collection could also be a drain on the network because of the bandwidth required to transfer the data collected from the various sensors and send it to the data center for processing. That's why Cisco is now advocating for "edge" computing, or enabling at least some of the analytics to be done at the source of the data. As an example, Cisco's Chris White, SVP for IoE sales and strategy, said that a security camera at a retail store could process the data locally and deliver it to store manager directly, rather than have that data transferred to a data center to be processed and then sent back to the store.

Perhaps because of bandwidth constraints, companies will have to pick and choose which data is worth processing and analyzing and which is not. Cisco's research report asserts that "winners" will be those companies that derive value from the IoT and hone in on converting data into useful information and actionable insights.

But determining what data is useful and what is not is going to hinge on some very good computing and data analytics. And of course, keeping that data secure is going to require some top-notch security protocols.

Given the complexity of the IoT ecosystem, making sure data is analyzed, processed and secure will not be an easy process. However, with so many major telecom and IT companies rallying around IoT, it is certainly capturing a lot of attention and investment as all these firms attempt to become IoT thought leaders, rather than followers. --Sue

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