data, data, everywhere

there’s a lot of talk about mobile right now. it’s hot in part because of the number of mobile devices there are now and the opportunities these present to interact with clients, partners and employees in new ways.

many are now estimating that this year the number of mobile, tablet and laptop devices will overtake the population of the planet. but there’s another huge explosion in devices happening, and largely because we don’t directly touch and interact these devices ourselves it’s going on with less fanfare and notice: the Internet of Things. Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications on an unprecedented scale.

an explosion of connected sensors and controllers that are everywhere. in our cars, in our houses, in the streets, under the sea, monitoring the air, and likely one day in our clothes too. and there’s going to be a lot more of these devices feeding us a veritable tsunami of data about the world around us.

the Internet of Things is predicted to far overtake mobile devices. by 2020 some researchers reckon we’ll reach 24 billion connected devices in the Internet of Things. if mobile and social feeds represent a stream of big data, then the Internet of Things will turn big data into ginormous data (technical term ;-)).

internetofthings

so, huge opportunities await those who can sift through that information, and find the golden needles in the hack stack of ginormous data that enables to them pin-point (pun intended) new sources of revenue. but the challenge in gaining instant access to that sensor information in the Internet of Things is also considerable. clearly the massive scale is a challenge. what’s needed there is the ability to transport massive amounts of sensor data and bring that information into the enterprise where it can be analyzed in real-time. but also, there needs to be a way to readily share this data regardless of which sensor devices captured it.

in the Oil and Gas industry this problem has been top of mind for decades. the term SCADA is used to describe real time access to the sensor networks that relay pipeline data, and “SCADA prison” to the way this operational data is in-accessible to the business for real-time analytics, looking for those revenue “needles”.

i experienced the SCADA prison first hand in my first work experience assignment: predicting the ability of a Canadian oil company to meet future demand by trying to compare historic oil field production rates with their supply chain. up-to-date sales data was easy to find, organized just the way i needed it as a very junior business analyst.

but the oil field production data was 6 months old and in a mess. although the pipeline’s operation was dependent on the real-time  monitoring systems the company had, the business guys had to wait a long time to be done the favor of sharing it.

the data was in arbitrarily different formats because of the differences in the make and type of physical sensor that captured the information. not only did it make the job of the business analyst tedious, confusing and time-consuming, it made it impossible to build a real-time model of the pipeline for business purposes. the thought of trading oil as it flowed through the pipe was unreachable.

there was data, data, everywhere – but for the business analyst, there was not a drop ready to drink. in order to quench the thirst for insight for the Internet of Things we must make it easy to get relevant, timely information from any and all the devices that sense the world around us.

scada

so, how do we move forward?

over the years, many have tried to standardize the way the Internet of Things captures and communicates its data. so much in fact, that the standard ways to access the billions of devices in the Internet of Things feel like they number into the billions as well. what’s needed is a new approach. one that focuses – not on making all the devices be the same, but – on enabling these devices to talk to the enterprise. to feed a real-time view of the events to the decision makers, and enterprise systems that drive the business.

to drive this revolution in M2M connectivity, OASIS have issued a call to action for a standards activity focused on M2M communications.

the goal is to define an open publish/subscribe protocol for telemetry messaging designed to be open, simple, lightweight, and suited for use in constrained networks and multi-platform environments.

why not get involved?

i’ll certainly be contributing, from my desk in hursley.

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