An enterprise scale IoT Platform: Watson

By | 7 minute read | February 21, 2017

IBM Munich HQ

Digital transformation is a journey

When you embark on using IoT, you embark on a journey of transformation. The fusion of the physical world and the digital world gives us all the chance to bring inanimate objects to life – connecting them to each other, to other things, to ourselves – in order to gain context from our environment, to improve our experiences, to create new ways of understanding the world around us.

Opening the Pandora’s Box of IoT

Lift the lid, look inside and there are thousands of possibilities, millions of data points, billions of devices working in concert to animate the things around us.  The IoT is driving digital disruption of the physical world with more than 12 Billion IoT devices around the world currently connected to the Internet1. IDC predicts there will be 30 Billion IoT devices connected to the Internet by 20201, and that number is expected to increase within the next decade– ranging anywhere between 50 billion to reach 1 trillion. Within the same time span, 40% of all data generated will come from connected sensors resulting in data from IoT yielding insights that drive economic value of more than $11 trillion by 2025. 1

It is virtually impossible to fathom the scale of data creation and distillation resulting from this proliferation of connected homes, livestock, people, or cars:

  • 212 billion sensors enabled by 2020 2
  • 110 million cars produced with 5.5 billion sensors 2
  • 1.6 billion connected livestock 2
  • 500 million sensors in US factories alone 2
  • 1.2 million homes with more than 200 million sensors 2
  • 330 million people with a billion sensors 2

Being presented with potentially limitless opportunity does not come without challenges of varying complexity. How do I connect all my devices? Where do I store all my data? How do I secure my IoT landscape? Will my IoT data integrate with my enterprise data? Who can help me build an end-to-end ecosystem? What is my time to value?

Connected machines can provide an abundance of rich data, providing organizations with huge potential to harvest the data for insights. To fully extract the value of the data around us, organizations are turning to non-traditional analytics approaches – like cognitive and edge computing.

An IoT platform is so important to realize the benefits of digital transformation;  it allows you to integrate new IoT data with existing enterprise systems at scale and on a global level, while taking into account how to connect devices, run analytics, manage data – and to do it all securely.  Through the connection of the physical and digital worlds, Watson IoT makes it easier to innovate around new products, services and processes, discover new streams of revenue and business models.

What makes Watson IoT – a platform for business

Fig. 1: What makes Watson IoT – a platform for business

Bringing transformation to life

The Watson IoT Platform is designed to help you bring transformation to life. Let’s take a look at an industrial application for machine learning and IoT.

Scenario: Preventing a process failure by monitoring and predicting temperature

While on site in Munich at the Genius of Things Summit, Peter Crocker, Watson IoT Platform Offering Lead, provided a highly visual demonstration of industrial IoT and machine learning in action. During the session, Peter took the audience through a demo that illustrates an industrial processes focusing on the close monitoring of temperature.

The demo focused on monitoring the temperature of an industrial process in real time, watching how a liquid cools and most importantly, predicting when it’s going to hit either a critical temperature; or an ideal temperature in which to take an action as part of a specific process.  For example, you might have a process that is going to fail if the temperature is going to exceed a certain limit, or falls below a certain temperature.

In the span of a few minutes, using a simple cup of tea, Peter monitored his industrial process, predicting the perfect temperature when it’s ready to drink by using a device that records the temperature every 2 seconds, sends that temperature data to Watson IoT Platform – to a data center in Dallas – where Watson’s Machine Learning service analyses data against that temperature, enabling us to learn how the liquid is cooling in the vessel.

Using machine learning, we can predict when the cup of tea will hit the critical temperature of 60 degrees Celsius. The process indicates via a live feed of how many seconds are left until the tea is predicted to cool to the optimum point for drinking. While the example Peter shared uses a cup of tea, it’s easy to apply the same scenario to an industrial setting where you might have anything where temperature is involved. Whether you are cooling, warming, or heating the liquid, the exact same principals apply. The only thing that might change is the type of device that’s going into that liquid, but regardless of the device the achieved results will be the same, be it a furnace with molten iron, or liquid nitrogen that is cooling a part.

The most interesting aspect of the demo is the prediction piece – being able to predict with machine learning if you are close to the time when a particular liquid temperature becomes critical to a process. In this scenario, Peter is not interested in setting limits based on being close to the temperature he is worried about, but how close he is to the time at which that temperature becomes critical.  It’s about being able to predict how many seconds, minutes, hours, or even days, to the point where that critical temperature is reached.

This capability is part of IBM Watson’s Machine Learning service which is currently in beta.

What makes Watson IoT Platform different?

Fig. 2: What makes Watson IoT Platform different

Fig. 2: What makes Watson IoT Platform different

Risk and security management

The new Risk and Security Management capability in the Platform provides enables organizations to enhance IBM Watson™ IoT Platform security by creating, enforcing, and reporting by policy on things like device connection security. With this feature, certificates and transport layer security (TLS) authentication can be specified, on top of the user IDs and tokens that are used by Watson IoT Platform to determine how and where devices can connect.  Policies can be setup for valid combinations and devices not meeting those policies will be denied access, even if they use valid user IDs and passwords. These new features will help companies who are deploying and managing IoT devices have the visibility and control across their IoT landscapes that they need to keep their IoT deployments safe and secure.

In addition to Risk and Security management, we’ve added lots of other new functions to the Platform over recent weeks.  Items such as an open gateway SDK, allowing all gateway providers to run IBM’s edge analytics; device context and state, giving you far more flexibility of how your devices are represented and grouped in the Platform make the Platform ever more powerful. We continue to add new features and functions on a fortnightly basis, so do keep an eye on our IoT Platform blog for more news, in addition to tear downs of some of the great announcements being revealed during this week’s Genius of Things Summit.

An IoT ecosystem from chip to cloud

Building on the principles of open collaboration and innovation, the Watson IoT ecosystem is a vibrant community of individuals and organizations that includes developers, designers, partners and clients that use Watson IoT Platform in their technology, solutions and applications; partners solving IoT challenges by delivering applications driven by IBM software and cloud services; and, partners transforming business processes with Watson IoT Industry solutions and system integration

Start building IoT solutions that think

There are business solutions that work with data, and there are business solutions that put data to work for you. Watson IoT Platform is designed to simplify cognitive IoT development so you can harness the full potential of the Internet of Things.

 “When you can democratize compute and design capabilities through flexibility, access, power, ease of use – making it available to virtually anyone, you create an environment with limitless possibilities. When creativity and technology come together in an environment that is so easy to prototype and simulate, there’s no telling what amazing ideas and innovations will be discovered.” – Bret Greenstein, Vice President, Watson Internet of Things Consumer and Digital Business

Learn more

Keep an eye on the blog for the latest news from the Genius of Things summit in Munich this week. Interested in working with us? Learn more about our cognitive solutions by visiting the IoT website, or speak to a representative to find out how we can help you take the next step in bringing the IoT to your business.