The weather constantly changes. We expect it too. Our everyday experience revolves around knowing the latest forecast. We crave real-time visibility because of the impact on our lives. What does this reveal about IoT and the path to energy efficiency?
Think about it. Every time you pick up your phone, you expect something to have changed. You don’t pick up your phone to see the same reminder from 20 minutes ago. No, you expect new information. Something must have changed about a friend, a gathering, a conversation . . . anything really.
The world constantly changes. Those that stay current reap the rewards.
This may seem absurd or even trivial because of the rise of social media. Don't ignore this shift in expectations, however. Certainly, the essence of this compulsion for real-time visibility highlights the value IoT brings.
Is Your Business Perceived as Obsolete?
Think about the shift in expectations caused by every mobile device. Every person has been slowly conditioned over the years to expect real-time services. Month-end reports died a death years ago. Those archaic reports have been replaced by services that reveal what changed . . . now.
You’ve changed and so have your customers. This change highlights the acute risk businesses face today. You must now account for the growing intolerance for stale data, for yesterday’s news. The stakes continue to rise. If a business fails to deliver real-time insights, then their customers will subconsciously label those services as lacking the most critical of things, relevance.
Certainly, customers today expect real-time data.
Why IoT Fills The Gap of Expectation
Connectedness represents the basic premise and promise of IoT. Inexpensive wireless devices can route data in real-time to modern cloud infrastructures. Anytime, anywhere access becomes a normal part of the modern service model. Any and all interested users can benefit from the meaningful insights provided by real-time visibility.
To understand the value of IoT or the “Internet of Things,” don’t forget the key word “Things.” Put aside for now the many variants of IoT products that exist in the market today. Just think about those “Things” and what they represent. IoT can provide real-time insight into a status of a device, a condition in the environment, an event that requires action, or any incidental of a “Thing” for which you have an interest.
IoT delivers real-time insights into those particular “Things” you've defined as important. More importantly, if you have a business, IoT can get you real-time insight into the “Things” your customers care about.
Let’s take a look at an example.
Performing an Energy Efficiency Consult
Imagine you've been hired as an energy consultant for a chain of franchise restaurants. Your historical business may have provided an analysis of their monthly utility bills along with retro-commissioning services that recommended replacement for inefficient equipment. You’ve harvested the low-hanging fruit, now what?
What “Things” could be of interest to your customer. More specifically, would your customer require real-time insights to any “Things” in those restaurants? Let’s consider some possibilities to illustrate the potential value of IoT in strategically filling the gaps.
Certainly, energy efficiency remains the focus. Often, the issue resides with people, not with equipment. Employees typically complain about being too hot or too cold. They spuriously change the thermostat setpoints during their shift, and fail to change them back at the close of business. Clearly, this represents a big problem and a huge energy waste. The thermostat mis-management represents the “Thing” causing concern.
IoT can solve this problem using remote setpoint management. Many existing thermostats support a digital protocol interface that enables an IoT device to connect to the thermostat. This connection enables digital retrieval of the current thermostat setpoints for display in a real-time, cloud dashboard. Your customer can receive alerts whenever the current setpoints deviate from established schedules. The IoT device can also enable remote management that ensures that the thermostat setpoints return to those established schedules off-hours. Huge energy savings result through IoT. Simple solution and a huge gain in energy efficiency.
Your customer cares about their inventory of food in the on-site refrigerators and freezers. This “Thing” greatly concerns your customer. IoT can help through the real-time monitoring of the power supply to the refrigerators and freezers to produce an alert on the loss of power. Elimination of these risk scenarios ensures that the restaurant can open on time with no disruption of restaurant services.
IoT can also help through the real-time temperature monitoring of the interior of the refrigerators and freezers to determine the risk of spoilage to the inventory of food. The production of daily records of cold-chain conditions can enable active management of in-store employee procedures.
With visibility comes comfort, and easing of your customer's concern.
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Your customer just wants real-time visibility into the granular day-by-day operation of their franchise restaurants. IoT can provide contact-closure sensors that can monitor the open/shut status of refrigerator and freezer doors, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) sensors that can monitor the operation of commercial kitchen areas, control switches that can shut off unnecessary lighting off hours, flow meters to track overall water usage, etc.
IoT can address targeted use cases at whatever level of granularity desired. Whatever concerns exist in a facility, IoT can deliver effective insights. IoT retrofits can scale with an enterprise to meet the needs of specific "Things."
The Operational Technology (OT) Future
IoT can provide practical benefits in various ways. Much untapped potential exists. As this simple example illustrates, IoT provides huge operational benefits in enabling effective management of day-to-day issues. Many think of the Information Technology (IT) aspects of IoT such as integration, data security, and connectedness. They remain important. Notwithstanding these familiar topics, IoT will unlock tremendous benefits in the OT world.