How to succeed with your IoT Project.
The Internet of Things has caught the world’s imagination over the last few years and at no surprise, the industry has grown to a staggering $82 billion globally. It has the potential to solve numerous challenges, both trivial and serious, however, lurking in the shadows, is the fact that 75% of all IoT projects fail…
That’s a really big number. So, why, and how does this happen?
A Failure Scenario
Imagine you’re working in the agriculture sector for a dairy company and there’s some budget remaining in the ‘IT’ column and you’re instructed to go and spend some money.
However, you’ve heard a lot of people talk about this IoT thing, alongside artificial intelligence and its potential to transform business operations. People give you a lot of advice and tell you products to look at – you jump online, and purchase some very cool IoT stuff. Then you get your office developers into a room and get them started on building a program.
Everyone discusses the needs and all agree that a good IoT design is important. However, you don’t have enough time or money to get that done by an IoT professional, so you decide to keep things simpler and cheaper by removing some of the more expensive components.
At this stage, you might choose Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to connect the sensors to the internet which are simpler to work with. The build goes well. Some of the sensors are turned on and sending data into the internet, collecting a sample every minute from various devices to your web server – it seems to be working fine.
But then you start testing everything is reporting correctly, only to find out that it’s not that easy. What you discover is that you have massive data loss. Half the sensors don’t work due to a number of issues onsite. Coverage of the Wi-Fi is one problem and the fact that the farmer changed his phone last week and his Bluetooth no longer connects to some of the sensors is another. By the second week, you have to buy additional components or more replacement equipment due to faults.
The data sets are missing huge chunks of data. The data has some value, but you’ve collected it with no real plan of what you’re going to use it for.
So what went wrong?
The most common problem with any IoT project is that the solution is not designed for a specific business case. With the wrong plan, there may be no way to identify what success actually looks like for the project.
This bit is really important. Don’t just collect data because you can, get the data you actually need. And how much of it you actually need.
Understand why and what is the outcome you want to achieve?
Do you want to create better work environments or to lower the energy consumption of a building?
Or do you want to monitor resource utilisation and wastage. Really drilling down now will change the entire outcome.
For example, you could be using a weather station and effluent meter in conjunction with water monitoring stations on a farm to help understand the patterns in water quality and nutrient loss. Those patterns can then allow you to make micro changes which you can monitor in real-time and over the next two to five years to make changes to improve the environment.
Sometimes the data can help you make changes instantly, but most of the time it takes time to see the change. IoT isn’t about the instant, it’s about seeing patterns, and watching these micro-changes take effect over time. Also, seeing patterns of issues that need to be solved.
IoT data removes the guesswork. It fills the gaps between what we’ve assumed and what we know.
A simple example would be detecting water leaks. Daily monitoring of water flow will reveal a sudden fluctuation, indicating a leak.
But a more complex business case could be measuring the salinity of the saltwater in a mussel farm. A mussel farm usually has to close when it rains, as the rain potentially has an impact on salinity values and mussel health and quality. But these closures may be directed by the Ministry of Primary Industries based on modelling from a weather station more than 70 kilometers away! However, by floating a salinity buoy that measures the salt level of water in the actual farm, the farmer now has an accurate source of data. So, if salinity levels are safe, they can continue operations with confidence and don’t risk being closed down without good reason.
Imagine IoT is a human. We hear, we smell, we touch something and we can react to it. We can understand it. If we get burnt, we adjust how we interact with it. It’s the same with IoT.
Think of your phone. It can hear you. It knows how you hold it. It knows how close it is to your face. It knows the temperature of the room and it’s connected to the internet. This device is sensing you, it’s understanding how you use it. It’s interacting with you, it adjusts itself to better suit you. Imagine this in a larger scale for your business. Imagine taking 10% of your building management costs out of the budget every year. The IoT can do this for you – if planned and delivered well.
The four key points of IoT are: sense, understand, interact and adjust. Once you have a plan and understand the most important steps to a reliable system, the first most important part is the IoT platform. The platform is where you manage the device and collect the data, without this your device will not work correctly.
The second most important step is identifying good, reliable hardware. Most of what you need is already available, so you don’t need to create something from scratch.
Data analytics and custom applications are really important. So is having robust, in-depth APIs in your platform, that allows a data analytics company or someone in your building to do analytics, to best form the pictures of what your data is telling you.
Then you need to test, test, adjust, and test some more. Security, security, security. The number one issue of an IoT system is not having the right security. You don’t want to be the casino in Nevada where a guy hacked in through the Bluetooth of the fish tank and ended up stealing a whole bunch of money.
IoT networks can be created for all kinds of outcomes. It helps to understand each one, the pros and cons, why Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is not an option. Adroit predominantly uses Cat M1 and NB-IoT through the Spark networks. They’re cellular networks the same as your cell phone but made for IoT networks, made for small amounts of data and further reach. It expands the range of the cell phone tower by a dramatic amount, we get about 138 kilometers of range out of a single cell tower.
LoRaWAN is really good for local deployments like on someone’s farm, where you might have 50, 60, 100 sensors out in the field that do soil moisture measurement or something like that. It allows you to create your own network or work with a company like Spark for your farm or your building.
Bringing it all together
Everything we need to build a really good IoT application is out there, but connecting them all together is what Adroit was set up to do.
Adroit’s platform is going to magnify your chances of a successful IoT installation out of sight, because our platform translates the raw sensor data into formats that can be understood by the end-user.
We’re effectively translating the sensor data – taking the language from one sensor and giving it real value, putting it into the cloud where you can read it and understand it.
What we do at Adroit is go and find the best of the best that’s required for that process. We have a selection of off-the-shelf kits we can use to solve a number of problems. Whether you’re in farming sectors, or you want to do something around water quality, we can do that off the shelf. But if it’s something custom, we can put it together within eight to 12 weeks.
So, don’t just start with a bag of money and start putting sensors here or there without a plan. The IoT is an incredible, powerful opportunity for businesses of all kinds and sizes. With a decent plan and some insight and support, it can help you transform your business for the future.