I’ve blogged recently on the internet of things (IOT) and at that time there was a prediction of five billion things coming online on the internet. I think that will need to be revised drastically, upwards. Only last month, Aldi was selling a Wi-Fi enabled powerpoint and they poured out the door at my local shop. I would love to survey those people to ask what they are going to do with them, or were they so cheap that they were an impulse purchase and will never be enabled? How many of those plugs has Aldi sold worldwide, I wonder? They could be single-handedly responsible for the first few million ‘things’.

Another home device that could likely be part of the IOT take-up is a luggage tracker. For all those who have waited around the luggage carousal, seething with “why me”, as everyone else picks up their bags and heads towards customs, even the people who were bailed up by the immigration desk, this gadget is for you. Track your bag through the terminal to the carousal or as it wings its way to foreign climes different to yours! The price for these sort of devices will plummet as demand increases and soon enough we will have millions of them circumnavigating the globe.

That’s all very well, but most of us are not in the business of cheap commodities or consumer gadgets. How will the IOT affect us? What has happened is the cost and size of sensor devices is plummeting as their level of sophistication is soaring. At the same time, almost every one of us has started to carry around a device ourselves that can simultaneously be the sensor and do the sensing. What we have now is the start of the next shift, where even the most basic things can be linked to places, people, usage and outcomes, sometimes without us even knowing it. Next time you scan a QR code to win a free ice cream, bear in mind that action could have disclosed who you are, where you are, what time it is, what the weather is like and who else is around you, just by leveraging the apps on the device you used to scan the wrapper. Did you know that Facebook has quietly introduced an ‘audio recognition’ feature that listens to the background noise from your mobile as you are posting your update?

While most of us are not paying attention, plenty of people are revamping their existing business models and devising completely new ones.

Low cost sensors are another frontier. Sensors in hotels, bars and other hospitality venues tell you when there is a crowd forming. Sensors in the ground tell landscape companies when to fertilise and water the sports fields and park lands. Sensors in sports shirts record the performance of each team member. Sensors tell people in the industrial and manufacturing estate when assets are close to, or have, broken down; when thresholds are breached; when particular machinery is in use; when the ground is shifting in unstable geographies; when the temperature is outside acceptable boundaries; when there is moisture where it should not be (and vice versa). Listeners in business systems can identify when certain trading or operating circumstances occur; listeners of big data can identify matches and correlations that can identify patterns and changes in behaviour; listeners in social media feeds can trigger events when company reputational issues start to trend. A building system can trigger when a certain location is accessed or a specific proximity card is used; and on and on it goes.

The challenge comes when you have to process the output from these sensors, decide what to do and act upon the information they provide. That’s where XMPro comes into play. XMPro handles event-based processes and help you respond to unpredictable operational outcomes. It can listen to the chatter that comes out of all sorts of systems, identify when something falls outside the norm; suggest what to do to remedy or respond to the situation; and then orchestrate the process to a conclusion. We call this sense-decide-act.

Let’s give a simple but real-life example. Back in that hotel, a big crowd has walked in the door. That’s a surprise because it’s a Tuesday evening and normally the bar is quiet as a church. We only have a skeleton crew on and they are going to struggle to serve this hungry and thirsty lot. In fact it is always so quiet the manager is on-call on Tuesdays. Sensors can identify the surge and exactly where it is, main bar, casual dining, gaming room, and trigger an alert. XMPro can listen for that alert, review the situation against previous events and email, text or dial the manager(s) to advise a shift review. Maybe pull one of the crew from the Sports Bar and get them down to the Main Bar straight away?

What ‘things’ have you got in your business that could trigger a better, quicker, more profitable response?

 

You can read more about Professional Advantage and XMPro here.

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