Crossing the line between normal and abnormal patterns in the Internet of Things

By | 4 minute read | April 11, 2017


A large technology conference such as the IBM InterConnect event can be overwhelming to many of us. But, it’s a worthwhile experience to endure – not just because there are more than fifteen thousand users, partners, analysts, media and IBM subject matter experts under one roof, but also because you get a first-hand, first-look experience with cutting edge innovations, groundbreaking announcements. Not to mention the hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunities to exchange thoughts and ideas with some of the brightest brains in the world.

A stalwart panel of industry experts

In one such example, I had the good fortune to host several knowledgeable and highly accomplished guests on a thought-leader panel entitled, ‘Cognitive IoT and Weather: Adoption Patterns and Challenges.  The panel participants included Jaspreet Bindra, Chief Digital Officer, Mahindra Group – one of the fastest growing Indian conglomerates with immense focus on being ‘future ready;’ Jen Thorson, Chief Integrator and Founder, Modjoul / Opus Wearables – a successful smart wearables start-up with a focus on ‘worker safety’; Brian Baird, Product Engineering Leader, Northstar Bluescope – a steel manufacturing company; and Kala Fleming, Worldwide Innovation Leader, IBM Corporate Technical Strategy.

The panel participants represented a diverse set of geographies, genders and business models to ensure the session could provide the audience with a realistic, dynamic, 360 degree view of the session’s topic.

On the day, we delved into three distinct topics:

  • Adoption patterns of digitization and Internet of Things across industries;
  • Weather and Cognitive technologies from the represented panel companies;
  • Guidance for other organizations and individuals who are venturing into similar transformational initiatives.

During the session, each panelist provided valuable insight relative to their individual perspectives. However, several consistencies emerged which all the panelists held in common.

Key takeaways and patterns

(1)    Each panelist believes their industry has come a long way in terms of technology adoption, having experienced a faster rate of progress in recent years, compared to the previous decade.

(2)    The panelists agree that a constant factor responsible for driving the accelerated adoption rate has been a proliferation of available Internet of Things (IoT) platforms and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.

(3)    The adoption of IoT and AI technologies is happening across the board, especially in domains which are human labor intensive, and where a current lack of insight is causing revenue leakage. For instance, the panel offered examples from the Agribusiness domain where the intervention of IoT, Weather and analytics around visual inspection of the crop is being used to save many cycles for farmers and field agents required to visit the farms to gather crop health data and soil parameters. In a similar example, a wearable solution for workers on a manufacturing shop floor that continuously monitors the motion and vital stats of the employee, can be used to record the precise instance when a health or safety issue occurred.

(4)    The panel also agree that adoption of Industrial IoT is accelerating in organizations like manufacturers and heavy equipment vendors looking to optimize their asset performance.

Interestingly, the panelists unanimously define ‘assets’ as including both non-living machinery and human staff – a point they say, if overlooked, could negatively impact an organization’s ability to achieve full operational efficiency. Successful asset optimization strategies need to address physical machine efficiency, human staff effectiveness, as well as worker health and safety.

Why IBM? Comprehensive capabilities on a global scale – available to any size organization

During the discussion, I asked the panelists to describe why IBM had been chosen as the partner of choice in their digitization journey. In reply, the panel consistently cited access to comprehensive capabilities, global scale, trustworthiness and strength as defining factors. For each panelist, IBM offered unmatchable capabilities vital to creating and delivering their solutions from concept through to market. But more importantly, they felt that organizations of any size – from a startup to a conglomerate – could take advantage of these capabilities.

The ‘ah-hah!’ moment: ‘normal’ patterns

One insightful point that struck all of us – panelists and audience members included – came from Brian Baird, Product Engineering Leader at Northstar Bluescope. Baird asked the question – ‘what is normal?’ We are all looking for ‘abnormalities’ in our assets and operations. Identifying where the differences are, where the outliers lie, can pinpoint how and when actions can be taken. But do we really know what ‘normal’ is? ‘Things’ and their interactions, whether it’s a piece heavy equipment or a smart watch, are truly complex. Having the ability to draw a line between ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ behavior can also lead us to new insights to provide improved worker safety, higher levels of customer service and huge operational savings.

Changing the status quo

So far this year, hosting the elite group of industry stalwarts at IBM InterConnect has been the highlight of 2017. Not only was the experience enjoyable, it was eye-opening to be the privy to such progressive conversations. The panelist interaction revealed how open to change and disruption business leaders can be, and, perhaps more interestingly, how excited they are about changing the status quo in their respective industries.

Continue the conversation

To continue the conversation on Twitter, please find our panelists online.

  • @mskohli – Manisha Sharma, Offering Manager, Watson IoT
  • @j_bindra – Jaspreet Bindra, Mahindra Group
  • @jenniferthorson – Jen Thorson, Modjoul / Opus Wearables
  • @bgbaird – Brian Baird, Product Engineering, Northstar Bluescope
  • @Kala_fhw , Kala Fleming, Innovation Leader, IBM Corporate Technical Strategy

Watson IoT Platform can help organizations of any size make sense of data to optimize operations, manage assets, rethink products and services, and transform the customer experience.

To learn more about Watson IoT, please download the Forrester Wave report. The recently published Forrester Wave: IoT Software Platforms, Q4 2016 assesses how vendors stack up against each other based on current offerings, strategy and market presence.