Pundits and prognosticators are busy predicting which technologies to watch in 2018. In his article, Top 10 Trends For Digital Transformation In 2018, for example, analyst Daniel Newman offers a compelling list that includes the Internet of Things (IoT), analytics, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality.
Newman gets no argument from me. In fact, many of the businesses I wrote about this year are already putting these technologies to good use.
Look no further than IoT. For several of these companies, the Internet of Things is more than just a trend – it’s a necessity.
The F-35 of the farm fields
At the 2017 SAPPHIRE NOW conference, I had the chance to speak with Eric Frobel, the director of global engineering processes and IT architecture at AGCO Corporation. AGCO is an international maker of agricultural equipment. The company’s well-known brands, such as Massey Ferguson, Challenger, GSI, Valtra, and Fendt, are built and sold around the globe.
Froebel described how much of the company’s top-end farm equipment is loaded with sensor-driven telematics, GPS positioning, automatic guidance systems, and wireless data transfer technology.
“With all its onboard software and hardware technology, a state-of-the-art tractor or combine is more like a fighter jet than the family car,” he said.
Froebel sees the farming efficiencies delivered by high-tech machines as a present-day imperative.
“World population is growing, while the planet’s arable land is decreasing,” Froebel observed. “That means the yield from smaller amounts of land have to feed more people.”
Under the hood and behind the wheel
I also wrote about the impact of connected cars on folks who own dozens, or even thousands, of vehicles.
As the largest privately held fleet management company in the world, ARI currently manages more than 1.4 million vehicles around the globe. ARI believes the combination of IoT technologies and network connectivity is propelling advancements in fleet management that involve both car and driver.
ARI officials explained that telematics are an integral part of a rapidly growing number of vehicles that the company manages. As a result, ARI currently processes more than a terabyte of telematics on a monthly basis.
“With vehicles that have telematics and IoT capabilities, we are really seeing inside that vehicle,” said Bill Powell, the director of enterprise architecture at ARI.
ARI is using this kind of data-driven insight at the company’s call center. Here, more than 400 ASE-certified technicians make decisions affecting critical issues like vehicle maintenance and repair, warranty protection, and driver safety for their clients.
“But the Holy Grail is figuring out what’s going on behind the wheel,” Powell noted, “interacting and connecting with that driver.”
Providing drivers with real-time information can promote behavior that results in cost savings – like combining a vehicle’s GPS data with information about local gas prices to direct drivers to the lowest-cost fuel provider. It’s a simple example, but consider the potential impact if you continually provide that information to thousands of drivers.
Measuring earthquakes one building at a time
Most recently, I wrote about Hakusan Corporation – a small manufacturing company based in Tokyo that designs, manufactures, and implements earthquake monitoring devices.
Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone places in the world. An estimated 1,500 quakes are recorded in the country every year, and minor earthquakes occur almost every day.
Today, Hakusan is pioneering a new system that uses monitoring devices placed in individual buildings and Big Data analysis to measure earthquake damage in real time.
Analysis of this data can provide very granular information about the effects of an earthquake. Magnify this insight with data from perhaps thousands of local devices, and a very detailed and immediate assessment of a seismic event begins to take shape.
“If we can precisely measure the actual movement of each building, we could predict the damage to individual structures,” said Yoichi Tanaka, the chief technical officer at Hakusan Corporation. “Doing this in near real time would give tremendous advantage to government agencies and first responders. It will help save lives and protect properties.”
These companies are just a few examples of IoT in action. It’s little wonder that Newman writes that three of the main trends that he identifies – the analytics revolution, edge computing, and 5G cell processing – “are all driven by the IoT at their core.”
IoT could well be the megatrend of 2018.