How the Internet of Things will impact the way we build

By: Jordan Cram, CEO, Enstoa

What is The Internet of Things?

General Electric (GE) estimates that in the next 20 years, the “Industrial Internet” market, which can be defined as the combination of Big Data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT), will add $10 to $15 trillion to the global GDP. However, despite the mass adoption of connected devices and technology across industries, a report from Accenture has found that about 87% of mainstream consumers still don’t understand what the IoT market is – so let’s make sure we are on the same page.

The Internet of Things is, simply put, the concept of connecting any device or sensor to the Internet and to each other. This can be anything from a smartphone or home thermostat to a heat sensor on an engine. Around 2013, IoT hit an inflection point in terms of the sheer number of Google searches made on the topic and the near-term impact is substantial.

The services we spend on IoT is estimated to grow 400 percent over the next four to five years, with McKinsey estimating an increase of up to $11 trillion-dollar per year in economic impact by 2025. The same report finds that IoT will reduce maintenance costs by up to 25%, cut unplanned outages by up to 50 percent, and extend the lives of machines by years.

Why Now?

The convergence of three well-known trends play a large role in making IoT a reality today:

· Moore’s Law, which states that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years, which proved true up until about 2013 when it went to every two and a half years.

· Metcalf’s Law, which states that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users in the system.

· Maturity of Big Data and Analytics, which is taking massive amounts of information, analyzing it and using it to produce meaningful and useful insights.

The decreasing cost of component devices has also been substantial for the proliferation of IoT. Today, it is possible to buy a smart device that has a CPU to process information, can communicate with a Bluetooth sensor and knows positioning thanks to its gyroscope for as little as a couple dollars.

Finally, mobile is a huge trend that has set the stage for IoT and has only just begun to have an impact on how we do work and live. In 2014, there were 1.6 bn smartphone users. By 2020 it is estimated that there will be 6.1 bn smartphone users.

IoT in Construction: Scenario

The applications for IoT in construction scenarios are almost limitless and have the opportunity to make a profound impact on organizations involved in large construction projects.

In a theoretical situation let’s take three devices: a drone, a microphone that communicates on low range frequency and a sensor that can detect the temperature of concrete because it is attached to rebar. Let’s take a healthcare institution and say their campus is expanding. They are building and renovating an increasing number of off-campus locations and still have to survey and monitor the work in those places.

What do we do with our three internet-connected devices? With a drone, we can fly over and see what is going on in and around each of these sites. Inside, we have planted thousands of little microphones that block out the spectrum for human voices so there are no privacy issues. But, we can pick up activity in the space to monitor construction activities and even progress. And then the sensors attached to the rebar tells us when the concrete has reached the perfect temperature so we can commence building activities.

By taking all this sensor information and plugging it into a database, we can analyze a situation without the time intensive process of going out and auditing and evaluating.

IoT at Work

Beyond construction applications, IoT has lasting effects across industries including:
· Utilities: GE has been something of a ‘first mover’ in IoT, trying to rebrand the term into the “industrial internet.” As an example, by using historical information, GE mapped out regions based on power failure rates, weather data and equipment information to predict possible future power outages. This has enabled response teams to focus specifically on high-risk areas to ensure a proactive response should an outage occur.
· Healthcare: A various range of internet-connected wearables, worn by patients, have been implemented across the globe that can deliver vital information to clinical professionals who want to get ahead of a potential medical issue.

Three Takeaways

What can we do to get ready to optimize IoT?
1.  Following Metcalfe’s Law, data in a silo has very little value so we need to start interconnecting these silos of information in order to obtain the value of those connected devices. IoT has exponentially more impact as more devices are connected.
2.  Address privacy and security upfront. A significant amount of focus will need to be on protecting company and customer data given the massive amounts of information flowing over wireless networks.
3.  Start building an organizational capability or paradigm to ensure the right behaviors and the right way to think about the massive amount of information that will be available to the organization.

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