“Don’t You Get It Dad? It’s All About The Data.” 

“Don’t you get it Dad? It’s all about the data.” 

What is a 1902 Billboard 100 song about a music hall performer who drank excessively and pursued the debauchment of his wife doing on “My Digital Disruption Playlist”? My son’s name is Bill Bailey Seibel. And at 12 years old, he taught me what it takes to turn an IoT solution into a killer app.

My wife and I thought about naming our son Bailey William. Carol liked the name Bailey, but it didn’t feel right to me. I Googled it and found that Bailey was the 665th most common name for a boy born in America that year. I was OK with that. But it was also the 83rd most popular name for a girl – and that gave me pause. And when I discovered, according to Dogtime [1], that it was the most popular name for a pet dog, my mind was made. Bill Bailey, or Bales for short, it would be! 

Bales had just turned 12 when I founded Mobiquity. I had a last-minute opportunity to speak to a room full of CIOs about the innovation opportunities driven by the new technology stack: Mobile, Social, the Cloud, Big Data and Analytics, and the Internet of Things. I didn’t have that presentation, and had only a week to create it. I needed help, and I told my teenage daughter, Christina, that I would give her $20 if she could find an example of a social media app that generated business value. In less than 15 minutes, she found a terrific example and collected her $20.

Bales was watching, and said, “Dad – what about me?”

I replied, “If you can find an example of an Internet of Things killer app, I’ll give you $20.”

He walked to his room with his laptop, and I seldom saw him for the next five days. Bales was constantly on his computer searching for an example. 

When I was ready to give up on Bales, he called out in a very excited voice, “Dad – I’ve got it.” He went on, “There is a company called Renkoit that deployed an internet-enabled rat trap across Wembley arena in the UK. As soon as a rat is caught, the Ratkeeper gets a text message on his phone so that he can rebait the trap and get rid of the dead rat.”

At that moment, I was a very proud father. “Bales – great example – here’s your $20,” I said.

He interrupted me. “Wait, Dad – that’s not the whole story. With that data, the Ratkeeper knows if the rat population is increasing or decreasing, and whether it’s shifting to another side of the stadium. With that information, he can implement a much better extermination strategy.” Bales paused and looked at me quizzically.

“Don’t you get it, Dad? It’s about the data.”

I smiled and handed him another $20. Still, I had to ask, “Great example – but why did it take you so long to find it.”

“There are a lot of IoT solutions, but it was really difficult to find one that killed things.” It was my reference to a “killer app” that threw him!

IoT is about the data. It’s central to Rocket Wagon’s (the IoT professional services firm where I am Executive Chairman) value proposition. Data transforms decision-making from gut feel or educated guesses culled from history and experience into objective decisions based on patterns and predictions. Data also enables us to quantify the underlying assumptions upon which our decisions are based. Indeed, data lets us know by how much we can improve or optimize something. IoT not only enables you to collect significantly more data on products, services, and operations, but it also provides an opportunity for you to use that data to drive a competitive advantage for your business.

In the late 1970s, Clive Finkelstein introduced Information Engineering – a development methodology that began by identifying the data an enterprise needs to drive business decisions. Forty years later, IoT is projected to generate 400 zetabytes (or 400 trillion gigabytes) of data a year – 500,000 times higher. Clive would remind us to begin by understanding how that data can be leveraged to drive new insights that can power innovative business models.

We seem to have forgotten Clive’s lessons. Typically, IoT begins by asking, “Which sensors can I connect to my products?” That’s followed by questions about connectivity and cloud infrastructure. The attention then shifts to data storage. Analytics and security are afterthoughts. By then, much of the hardware and infrastructure has been built. And you may have designed yourself into a corner.

IoT isn’t just about physical plant efficiency; innovative business models fueled by new insights drive its real potential. And the critical design point is the data necessary to drive those insights. Keep that outcome in mind from the very beginning of any effort to build (and not exterminate) a killer app around IoT. As Bale’s would say, “Don’t you get it, Dad? It’s about the data.”