When I walk into IoT Envisioning Workshops with customers, they often greet me with wide eyes and excited voices, energized by visions of the Internet of Things with connected campuses where virtually every physical object collects and transmits huge volumes of valuable data.
This is understandable, as much of the literature around IoT focuses on speculative, revolutionary use cases that, in reality, may be impractical or haven’t even come to market yet. While my conversations with customers often start with these futuristic use cases, we’re always eventually able to narrow focus to short-term “quick wins” that they can build on.
Here are three lessons that have emerged from these IoT engagements:
1. Think Big, Start Small
One customer, a small city in the South, initially had the lofty (but not easily measured) goal of improving the quality of life for its citizens. Civic leaders had a long-term vision of creating a “city of the future,” with connected traffic signals, an interactive city app and even smart storm drains.
But as we talked further, it became clear that two immediate areas of focus for the city were improving public safety and cutting energy costs. Eventually, we honed in on the use case of smart streetlights, designed to conserve energy while still providing illumination for pedestrians as needed. With this one move, we realized, the city could address its primary areas of concern, generate an almost immediate return on investment and begin its IoT journey with a manageable first step.
2. Gain Visibility into Existing Assets
Another customer — a large Midwestern school district — also had a lofty goal: to provide a safe and comfortable learning environment for students. Connected building systems such as physical security, HVAC and other utilities can all contribute to the overall learning environment. We focused much of our conversation on how to gain insight into these systems to improve the district’s operations.
In fact, the district had already implemented a number of automation and monitoring systems, but these varied widely from building to building, with no way for facilities or IT leaders to centrally manage them and easily compare their performance. We are now working with the organization to install sensors that will help the district gain that visibility — ultimately allowing leaders to make decisions that will cuts costs and improve the learning environment throughout the school system.
3. Proactively Prevent Problems
A smaller school district, also located in the Midwest, wanted to centralize management of its security cameras and implement facial recognition technology. The organization is rolling out a pilot program, with the hope that the facial recognition software will be able to warn school leaders when unauthorized persons enter their buildings, rather than merely allowing officials to view the footage after an incident occurs.
Eventually, district leaders hope, the cameras might tie into other data systems — greeting students with visual reminders about overdue permission forms, for example — and thus help them to realize a long-term vision for IoT. But for now, the district is focused on the short-term goal of preventing problems before they start.