Enterprises have become more trusting of cloud offerings over the years, with many leveraging a public, private, or hybrid cloud solution for operational improvements and savings. There has been a gradual shift from private to public cloud as trust in the cloud has grown, and its services have become more ubiquitous. In fact, Amazon Web Services (AWS), one of the largest providers of public cloud services, is on track to become a $10 billion business. A public or even a hybrid cloud allows for increased flexibility, making it easier and more cost effective to scale the solution as needed, which is particularly important for organizations leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial IoT (IIoT). But even amidst all the buzzwords, the true value of the cloud isn’t well-understood. Too often, enterprises are focused on the data, rather than the intelligence they can glean from that data and the action taken based on the data. The cloud and specifically cloud communications is the key to shifting that perception.
Real-Time Data for Real-Time Communications
As with anything related to the IoT, it all starts with data. No two IoT deployments are the same, and so the data itself matters less than what’s actually done with the data. This data can be used to power real-time communications that will help streamline enterprise or industrial process and boost efficiency. For example, IoT data from a smoke detector might be used to trigger office alert systems that send mass notifications during an emergency when time is of the essence. In an industrial setting, real-time IoT data might allow fleet supervisors to more easily monitor and manage their fleet of drivers and make quick adjustments in real time to route and deliver information that positively impacts client satisfaction, driver safety, environmental footprint, and the bottom line.
Giving Voice to the Machine
Through IoT, the cloud collects thousands of data points that must be analyzed to enable these benefits—the bigger the data, the better. Powered by the right cloud solution, big data acts as a window into the future, but only if the right data is captured and analyzed. For example, if time exposed to humid conditions is the best predictor of when a machine will need maintenance, collecting temperature data without humidity data won’t help much.
Once the right data variables are identified, these pieces of data can be used to give IoT-enabled devices a voice of their very own. In the case of fleet management, a data analysis of a truck might consider route schedules, distance, climate, and drive time, presenting extremely useful insight into each individual truck’s maintenance needs. Instead of then alerting the truck driver that its due for maintenance so the driver or fleet manager can make the appointment, the truck itself (with the assistance of the cloud) can check schedules, taking into account deliveries, the driver’s hours and the mechanic’s openings in order to book the appointment. This minimizes the downtime of the truck as well as the involvement of the driver or fleet manager, thereby maximizing efficiency and improving the bottom-line.
Of course, this sort of real-time communications by so-called dumb machines requires a successful artificial intelligence (AI) to facilitate both the predictive analytics required to create this sort of actionable intelligence and to serve as the voice of the machine. In addition to collecting, analyzing, and packaging up data-driven insights for organizations to glean efficiencies from, AI allows the IoT to turn that insight into action.
In an enterprise setting, for example, imagine if your collaboration platform could correctly interpret a request to reschedule a meeting by identifying the meeting in question, examining the schedules of the participants, take working hours and preferences into account and automatically reschedule the meeting at a time that was convenient for all.
The Next Generation of Cloud
Cloud communications is the linchpin that enables AI-based communications to work. It supports the creation of “soft phones” and other virtualized communications technology, which are not tied to traditional phone lines or desk-top handsets, but instead exist solely within our computers. These virtual communications tools are what will send a text message to the mechanic scheduling of a maintenance appointment, update a calendar invite to follow up on a meeting request, or call to confirm travel reservations for next week’s business trip.
Today, we are closer than ever to realizing the value of artificial intelligence combined with IoT. With an Amazon Echo that can order a dollhouse and 4 pounds of cookies (or anything else) at our vocalized request, the day of AI-based cloud communications driven by IoT-generated data in both the enterprise and in industrial settings is not too far away. As an industry, we’re moving in the right direction with the increased adoption of public and hybrid clouds, but it’s important to keep moving forward. The sooner your organization moves to the cloud, the better. If maximized operational benefits are the goal, laying the framework now with a cloud solution that familiarizes you and your organization with cloud capabilities, and the technological structure will make for a huge competitive advantage down the line.