Internet of Things Value Hinges on Data Interoperability, Integration

Loraine Lawson
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How the Internet of Things Will Change Our Lives

The analytics capabilities exist for Internet of Things (IoT) data — it’s the integration of systems and lack of interoperability that will challenge organizations, warns Deloitte Consulting.

Deloitte predicts that the “Analytics of Things” will be one of the top analytics trends in 2015, but also predicts that organizations may have trouble leveraging the data due to proprietary solutions and APIs.

“There needs to be more interoperability, more interconnectivity, more integration of all these devices, otherwise we’re just going to have these competing standards, competing formats and I think you’ll have disappointed customers in the end,” John Lucker, Deloitte Consulting principal and global advanced analytics and modeling market leader, said in a recent interview with IT Business Edge.

Lucker points to the fitness band craze. While these devices mostly measure the same body metrics — movement, sleep and heart rate — they all exist in proprietary ecosystems. That means if users switch devices, all previous data is lost. Other devices are also tied into these proprietary ecosystems — such as scales or health applications — that become useless if you switch solutions, he pointed out.

“It's almost like back in the old days, where you kind of placed your bet on whether beta or VHS were going to be the big tape to go with and you're going to build your library of movies based on that particular technology,” Lucker said. “At some point in time, if you'd bet on beta you had a pretty big video library that wasn't particularly useful to you because they didn't make them anymore.”

While the problem is most obvious with consumer products right now, it will also affect businesses. A similar situation happened about 10 years ago in RFIDs, with each maker using a different transmission approach. That essentially created chaos and made RFIDs pointless for many. Finally, Wal-Mart used its status as a retail giant to impose standards on the RFID universe.

The medical industry is already struggling with the lack of standardization in devices used by hospitals, Lucker pointed out. The devices are made by individual companies and are proprietary from the device to the application you need to interpret the data. Dr. Julian Goldman, director of medical device interoperability at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told PC World that this impedes doctors from getting as good information as they might.


“If we don’t look at the lessons today in health care, the Internet of Things is not going to be an Internet of Things, it’s going to be a pile of things,” Goldman is quoted as saying.

The article notes that IEEE is trying to address data interoperability for the IoT. The challenge is convincing companies to give up some of their lock-down. While proprietary formats and APIs may give them an edge now, in the long run, it could work against them as competitors agree to follow standards. But until then, it will be hard for organizations to realize the real value of IoT analytics, Lucker said.

“How do you create these more holistic pictures and ecosystems of Internet of Things data and therefore create a more powerful analytics of things capability if you can't get all of this data to be integrated and standardized in some way?”

Loraine Lawson is a veteran technology reporter and blogger. She currently writes the Integration blog for IT Business Edge, which covers all aspects of integration technology, including data governance and best practices. She has also covered IT/Business Alignment and IT Security for IT Business Edge. Before becoming a freelance writer, Lawson worked at TechRepublic as a site editor and writer, covering mobile, IT management, IT security and other technology trends. Previously, she was a webmaster at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and a newspaper journalist. Follow Lawson at Google+ and on Twitter.

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