Why BI and analytics are fundamental to gaining value from IoT

Peter Baxter, Managing Director EMEA at Yellowfin

The Internet of Things (IoT) is seeing the proliferation of smart, networked devices, capable of producing vast amounts of data on aspects of our personal and professional lives. However, it’s not so much these smart devices that are adding value, but rather the potential to capture, interpret, analyse and act on the information they collate.

Business Intelligence (BI) technology enables companies – and individuals – to unlock the insights captured and transmitted between objects with Internet connectivity. These prized insights can then be exploited to bring enhanced services to market and improve the performance and efficiency of their business, says Peter Baxter, managing director EMEA at Yellowfin.

According to a recent Gartner report, 20.8bn connected ‘things’ will be in use by 2020. Consequently, the opportunity for companies to effectively mine these new data sources, to uncover fresh insights, is an enormous potential source of competitive advantage and new revenue streams. Reporting and analytics will be critical for businesses looking to derive value from the IoT. So, here are some of the benefits companies, both large and small, can expect to see:

Improved customer satisfaction: BI, in conjunction with IoT, empowers businesses to explore and mine consumer-generated data to better understand and anticipate customer needs. Armed with accurate data on individual customer preferences, businesses can offer highly-tailored marketing and promote products that match individual tastes and lifestyle’s thereby improving customer experience and loyalty.

Transport for London is reported to be evaluating how IoT data can help to improve commuters’ journeys. By monitoring passenger behavior, TfL aims to be able to react to passenger needs by, for example, informing people of where congestion is, optimising traffic lights and ensuring more efficient boarding at tube stations.

More efficient business operations: The scope for improving business operations, through granular analysis of those operations, is endless and extends across sectors. Manufacturing can use IoT to optimise production and supply chains – taking advantage of connected devices within the production and supply chain processes themselves – in order to monitor efficiencies. Similarly, farmers can use connected sensors to monitor crops and cattle to improve operational efficiencies.

For example, a group of wine producers in Germany are currently trialing IoT technology to optimise the management of wine production and improve the quality of their products. IoT sensors, deployed throughout the vineyards, measure and record air and soil humidity as well as temperature and solar intensity.

Through analysis of the data collated on vineyard conditions, winemakers are empowered with information that enables them to decide when best to fertilise and irrigate the vines to achieve the best quality wine possible.

Greater profitability: The vast amount of information produced via smart, connected devices – in terms of both new and rapidly growing data types and sources – means that organisations have the opportunity to use BI to become more profitable. Data-based insights can be used to improve existing products and services.

For example, insurers can analyse data from IoT solutions to give more accurate and personalised quotes and improve marketing through user demographic information and retail spending habits.

BI also enables stakeholders to turn data-based insights into a commodity in itself. These insights, derived from a range of smart connected devices that make-up the IoT phenomenon, can then become entire businesses themselves, with third parties able to sell that information to both consumers and companies.

Businesses can of course sell those insights to individuals directly (aside from using that information to improve products and services), and individuals can sell their personal device-associated usage data back to businesses (often in exchange for various incentives and rewards).

Forecast new trends: BI represents an opportunity to discover patterns, predict trends and forecast with greater confidence than ever before. BI gives access to these patterns across the entire organisations, meaning that relevant users and departments will be kept in the loop on new trends.

Similarly, by monitoring data streams from connected sensors in complex machinery or systems – such as escalators or airport hardware – it’s possible to identify when a component may fail, allowing a business to move to a position of preventative maintenance.

The IoT promises to revolutionise both the workplace and consumers’ lifestyles, providing stakeholders with information that enables organisations to be run more efficiently and for businesses to offer products and services tailored to fit their customers’ individual needs.

However, any business wishing to reap the benefits of this fast evolving technology will need a solid analytics tool capable of transforming the vast range of data sources into valuable insights that will boost their bottom line.

The author of this blog is Peter Baxter, managing director EMEA at Yellowfin.

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