IoT- big data's next big step - Gulf Business
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IoT- big data’s next big step

IoT- big data’s next big step

The combination of big data and analytics with Internet of Things technology is creating possibilities that were previously only considered science fiction

Imagine a jet engine receiving preventative maintenance weeks before it breaks down or an athlete being taken off the field just before they receive an injury.

These capabilities may seem more at home in sci-fi thriller Minority Report than the world today but they are genuine examples of the technology now available to businesses through the Internet of Things and analytics.

Consultancy Deloitte estimates IoT analytics revenue will grow 500 per cent over the next four years. Equally IoT revenue in the Middle East is set to top $2bn this year, with growth outpacing the global average, according to the firm.

And while technology enabling detectives to predict a murder before it happens may not yet be a reality, there are several exciting capabilities now available to companies looking to stay ahead of the competition.

IoT analytics in the Middle East

German software company SAP predicts that five key verticals in the Middle East will see the biggest impact from the IoT combined with analytics: smart cities, sport, education, healthcare and oil and gas.

Enhancements are expected to be a broad as tracking students’ educational progress, better decision-making in patient care and more efficient and profitable operations on oil rigs and pipelines.

“In this emerging digital economy, as more objects and devices are connected together, they are creating vast amounts of data that Middle East businesses are looking to leverage for actionable insights into their supply chain, research and product development, customer preferences and location-based services, and offers,” says SAP MENA chief operating officer Hannes Liebe.

Firms in the region are already taking note including Oman’s Al Khalili Group, which is using IoT and analytics capabilities to manage its supply chain.

“We can now track and analyse 40,000- plus items in Oman and the United Arab Emirates. This helps us to determine product stocking, leading to faster decision- making, boosting competitiveness and enhancing the customer experience,” says head of marketing Jumana Al Hashimi.

Big data company INRIX also recently launched its connected car analytics platform in the UAE. Through the service, which uses real time GPS data, the firm can monitor how many vehicles pass a location on a daily basis.

INRIX claims this will help city planners with traffic management and advertisers, and retailers, to see how many people are passing their billboard or shop. Data that can then be used to predict traffic levels, incidents and unexpected events in the future with a high degree of accuracy, according to, Europe, Middle East and Africa general manager Scott Sedlik.

“Connecting cars to create smarter cities is instrumental for transport authorities to make smarter decisions about how to optimise road networks. It’s not just about building more roads, or widening existing ones.”

From real time to predicting the future

Broader examples of IoT combined with analytics are emerging globally. From mining trucks that can tell when they need maintenance and order a spare part to connected vending machines that can change a supply truck’s delivery route in real time to restock an inventory.

As part of a $200m Smart Grid Investment Grant by the United States Department of Energy, Texan power transmission and distribution company Centrepoint Energy has deployed more than 2.3m smart sensors, providing data on individual homes and streets.

An intelligent grid, which has been deployed on 13 per cent of the company’s service territory, is also providing benefits. These include reduced vehicle travel and advanced, and improved, outage response – according to chief information officer and senior vice president of technology operations Gary Hayes.

“The ability to take digital information, feed that through our engineering programmes and make decisions in real time has saved about 100 million minutes and nd resulted in a 28 per cent improvement in reliability in 2014,” he says.

Now the company is looking to go one-step further with plans to utilise predictive analytics to determine the health of underground cable and when it needs to be replaced.

Hayes believes predictive capabilities will not stop there either. He envisions an IoT connected network able to detect when household appliances are having a voltage problem and cycle them until the problem is resolved or even automatically call a repairman.

Others are looking to prevent these kinds of problems before they even occur. Germany’s Siemens has developed predictive maintenance capabilities for its products for years in a bid to match customer demand for lifetime commitments.

This means helping mining trucks last longer and plants to be more productive through a digital engineering process involving the IoT and analytics.

“Today we are able for our electrical drives, just as an example, to predict certain failures up to three months in advance,” says Siemens AG digital factory customer service chief executive officer Dr Peter Weckesser.

Big data in sport

As the German victory in the 2014 World cup has shown, big data is no stranger to sport either.

Through an SAP Match Insights software system, used before and during the tournament, the German team analysed data captured by video cameras around the pitch on tablets and mobiles. In turn providing insights to improve team and player performance, and importantly that of rivals.

SAP said the biggest improvement resulting from the data was the team’s speed of passing. Ball possession time reduced from 3.4 seconds at the 2010 South Africa World cup to 1.1 seconds in Brazil. The German management and players also had data on speed, distance travelled, positioning and number of touches for each individual to improve their game.

Similar projects with the ICC Cricket World Cup and Germany’s FC Bayern Munich have proved productive, leading others sports to take notice.

In North America, the National Hockey League revealed plans earlier this year to create an enhanced statistics offering designed to appeal to hardcore and casual fans a like. CIO Peter Del Giacco says sensors and biometrics are creating a wealth of information including the speeds and distances travelled of the puck and players. But analytics is also now enabling this to go a step further, helping to protect athletes from injury.

“Wearing these biometric devices on the players, they are able to tell before an injury or ligament damage occurs,” he says, citing studies in the National Football League.

By looking for tell tale signs in biometric data, such as a shortening in a players stride before they pull a ligament, Del Giacco says it is possible to pull a player off in advance. Technology that could extend the careers of players, and means fans are less likely to see injuries impact their team.

The fan experience is also being enhanced in the stands. In some tech-savvy arenas fans can now be guided to their seat, avoiding queues and crowds in the process – via a smartphone app linked with Wi-Fi and sensors – says Del Giacco. Once sat down, they can then order food and memorabilia to their seat from the app, and take advantage of discounts targeted at them through analytics.

“The arena is going to change drastically. Elaborate Wi-Fi systems give you the capability to connect to fans and enhance the experience. It’s come a long way and it will continue to change,” he says.

Comparisons with Minority Report style surveillance, in which billboards recognise people and their state of mind displaying intrusive advertising, are certainly something executives want to avoid.

“You’ve got to respect your customer. Before we send out a message and automate that there is a lot of thought because if you send out too many you turn that person off, they’re gone. There are options and opportunities within an application to opt out of email and we respect that, you have to.”

Coffee by the gulp

As companies realise the capabilities of big data platforms combined with IoT many are expected to adopt a model not too dissimilar to the one their enterprise software partners are opting for.

The software-as-a-service model, in which applications are hosted by a vendor or service provider and made available to customers over the internet, has been heavily adopted in the enterprise technology space. Now it is taking its own form in other sectors, says SAP Platform Solutions president Steve Lucas.

He believes once there is a realisation at a company of the capability to “sell coffee by the drink” it is only a matter of time before the idea is adopted.

Albeit with some time taken to consider financial implications and how to sell the new model to customers.

“I would say at least half the companies I talk to are looking at this. How to sell coffee as a service, air as a service, cleaning as a service,” he says.

“What you’re going to see in the future is the battle is not going to be won on building an innovative product and selling it to someone but selling a series of value added services.”

Imagine paying for television as a service based on the amount you watch or a vacuum based on the amount you hoover. All with no down time thanks to predictive maintenance. And analytics could even tell you how to do both activities more efficiently. Not quite Minority Report but this could be the future enabled by big data and analytics.


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