Sometimes the benefits of sharing IoT data are realized entirely within your company. SAP created a nifty prototype IoT snack vending machine that recognizes users who opt in by name when they approach using Near-Field Communication (NFC). Then it asks, for example, if they “want the usual,” based on past purchases. It might even offer a package discount for chips and a drink, as well as nutritional information.
That alone would be innovative, but the software firm goes further. Real-time data on the machine’s remaining inventory is sent to the distribution warehouse, where machine-to-machine (M2M) processing updates what the driver will deliver to replenish the machine. If the overall system detects that one of the machines is experiencing especially high demand, then the driver’s iPad will reroute her to that machine—all without human intervention.
Data sharing in this way contributes to one of the IoT’s most important business benefits: letting you squeeze out inefficiencies and operate with maximum precision. Continually analyzing the operating data and identifying deviations will allow you to make continuing, sometimes minute, adjustments to processes.
2) Become Better Together
Perhaps the most widespread example of mutual benefits from sharing IoT data is the IFTTT (If This, Then That) site, where a constantly growing number of IoT device manufacturers post the Application Programming Interfaces (API) for their devices.
Users—including those without any technical skills—can use the APIs to mash up various devices and commands. For instance, when it’s time for bed, you say, “Alexa, trigger bedtime,” and Amazon’s Alexa will turn off the WeMo switches—two different devices from two different companies, linked into a powerful combination that makes both more versatile, created by a user who just wants to make his life easier!
3) Harness Other's Insights
Perhaps most striking is how a company sharing its IoT data instead of hoarding it can lead to benefits of a totally different kind. According to Chris Rezendes of IoTImpactLab, Grundfos, the Danish pump manufacturer, now builds sensors into the pumps it installs on remote African water wells, so that it is notified when a pump isn’t working and needs servicing (since it can take days for a repair person to reach there). Grundfos also made that data publicly available, and an ingenious local resident created a phone app that the women from villages miles from the wells can check before they leave with heavy water containers on their shoulders, to avoid a wasted trip if the pump isn’t working.
That’s a great example of a phenomenon that kicks in when you throw open access to IoT data. No matter how smart Grundfos’s are, there’s no way they would have invented this app: their work and life experiences are too different from the villagers’. That’s just one example of how opening up data can harness the insights and needs of many users.