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EPISODE 75: DHG's Chief Data Officer Amit Arya discusses the pervasiveness and the possibilities of the internet of things.



[00:00:09] JL: Welcome to today's edition of DHG's GrowthCast. I'm your host, John Locke, and at DHG, our strength lies in our technical knowledge, our industry intelligence and our future focus. We understand business needs and are laser-focused on company goals. In this ever-changing world, DHG's GrowthCast provides insights and thought-provoking conversations on topics and trends that address growth opportunities and challenges in the current and future marketplace. Thanks for joining us as we discuss tomorrow's needs today.

[00:00:42] ANNOUNCER: Views and concepts expressed by today's panelists are their own and not those of Dickson Hughes Goodman LLP. Always consult the advice of your legal and financial professional before taking any action.


[00:00:58] JL: Today's podcast addresses a concept that most of us are familiar with and learning more about every day, and that's the Internet of Things. And with me to talk about this often used term and its application to businesses is Amit Arya, DHG's Chief Data and Analytics Officer. Welcome back to GrowthCast, Amit.

[00:01:19] AA: Thank you so much, John, for having me again.

[00:01:21] JL: Well, Amit, I was very curious about today's topic and wanted to learn more so that we can dive into a few interesting areas of this emerging trend in technology. And what I learned is that this term is attributed actually to a British engineer, Kevin Ashton, who started using this in conjunction with his RFID work back in 1999. The concept obviously has been around now for over 20 years. So Amit, can you provide us with the definition of this term and tell us what really has taken it so long to start gaining traction?

[00:01:55] AA: The term IoT, which stands for the Internet of Things, is all about different devices connected to each other through means of sensors, softwares and programs where the level of connectivity is achieved through the Internet. So the Internet is the primary medium for communication between these different devices.

We have really come a long way in our journey of having a connected world where we have billions of devices today connected to each other and talking to each other in real time. This is actually made possible by the proliferation of Internet across the globe. And the manufacturers and producers of goods taking note of the fact that there are efficiencies to be had and a better user experience to be created leveraging the Internet and letting the manufacturers and the producers know how the customer experience is shaping up in using their devices and services if you will.

The revolution actually started like you mentioned quite a few decades ago, but the catalyst really has been the cost of these sensors that transmit the data to each other has really come down a lot so we can now afford to embed more and more sensors and more and more devices. The world itself has become a smaller place through global connectivity of Internet. So manufacturers can now deploy these sensors at scale and therefore reduce the cost, and then monitor the data. So the computing power needed to access this data, monitor it and make meaningful insights and create foresights for the manufacturers also increase a lot.

So it's a very optimal time given the lowering of sensor prices, loading of hardware cost, better proliferation of Internet, better computing power to process all this data. That's coming all in favor of bringing the Internet of Things to the forefront. And it is really pervasive throughout our real world. There are maybe many examples in which you are interacting with IoT on a daily basis and you don't even know about it. But IoT truly is a pervasive technology in our everyday life.

[00:04:24] JL: So let's, for our listeners, just give a few practical real-life examples as to how the Internet of Things appear in our world.

[00:04:34] AA: John, as I mentioned earlier, the Internet of Things is really pervasive in our daily lives. The best examples that I can give you is just by looking in the last 12 months a few major purchases that I have made in my life. The first one of them is a connected refrigerator. This refrigerator that I've bought comes with sensors that not only tell me if it's operating well and it's operating optimally. I can view. I can increase or decrease the temperature sitting anywhere in the world through an app I have on my phone. But it also has some really cool sensors, cameras and a Lidar technology, which is light detection and ranging. This is the technology that is used in cars to prevent accidents. To look at what are the groceries I'm stoking inside the fridge. And the wonderful feature in this fridge is if it detects that I am running low on groceries, it will ping me on my phone anywhere in the globe as long as I'm connected to the Internet and let me know I'm running low on groceries.

Another example I have for you is a connected irrigation system. I invested in an irrigation system. It wasn't expensive at all. I paid more for the labor than the device itself. And this irrigation system is connected to the Internet and it checks in the weather forecast for the next five days. And it lets the system know that if there is rain in the forecast in the coming 24 to 48 hours, it will not water the plant. Now imagine deploying this sort of technology at scale and how much water we can save. We're not even talking about water saving if these types of sensors and technologies are used extensively in farming. Not only can we save billions of gallons of water by not over-watering, but also provide optimal nutrition and water to actually have better yields. So it's not even a cost saving mechanism. It's actually even a higher revenue generating mechanism if you will. So the potential, like I said, of IoT is really immense, and these are a few examples I had to point to in the service of IoT.

[00:06:54] JL: Yeah. Well, and I just read an article today in fact that stated we have around five, almost six billion connected devices, and that this number is projected to grow to over 42 billion by 2025, which is just a mind-boggling figure. And it appears that the automotive and manufacturing industries are going to drive this growth. So what are your thoughts as to how industry is going to capitalize on this really growing trend?

[00:07:25] AA: Well, 42 billion by 2025. Wow! John, see, that is a big number. And like I said earlier, millions of devices are coming online every single day. I believe that projection is supported by that 42 billion by 2025. The growth in IoT or the connected devices if you will is really driven by our need our inherent desire to make things more efficient. The car industry, the automotive and the manufacturing industries have picked up on this, because you already seen self-driving cars on the road, cars that have sensors around. As you come close to your home, it will notify you that you are in the house and you can open up the garage automatically. Manufacturers are using it to optimize their raw material procurement looking at inventory levels.

So the basic functionality that we are trying to achieve through IoT is looking at automated decision making. There are things that we do not need to have a human or even a computer to intervene as long as the devices that are connected to each other are talking and making smart decisions based on preconceived logic that optimizes your workflow, your manufacturing process, or any other use case that you may have with it.

So in terms of the use cases, it is a whole new world out there. And in expanding on the automotive and manufacturing industry, you can look at equipment monitoring as a good use case. You can see when an equipment might be prone to failure. GE, one of the industrial giants that we have in the world is heavily invested in IoT tomorrow to do just that to look at the equipment that the manufacturer and look at failure rates.

IoT can be leveraged for operations improvements. Optimizing the operations, if there's a process A, process B, process C. If they are in a serial order or they have an overlap. How can you minimize disruption if there is a dependency of one process or another through the IoT?

Interestingly, COVID has created a lot of labor shortage in the market. And IoT connected devices can also be used to optimize your labor and utilization and resource allocation if you will. Imagine a world in which you're able to uh to allocate resources based on the highest utilization of machines, which is coming based on how much of a run cycle they've already run through. The concept of production monitoring comes into play now with production monitoring. You are consuming materials, raw materials. You can manage raw materials.

We are now expanding the use case of IoT into vendor management now. Vendors who are supplying these materials for so-called production monitoring can now be notified ahead of time not reactively, but proactively, when you achieve a certain level of inventory or raw materials within your manufacturing plant or any other facility. And the broadest application of IoT is really coming through the supply chain optimization. We do see the invisible hand of the global economy is a supply chain. It's the movings of goods and services from one geography from one point A to point B. And IoT is already helping. We have at least in North America, pretty much all the trucks have these connected sensors where you can monitor their speed, their location, the distance that they have traveled. There are laws that mandate that a driver is supposed to take a rest after so many hours of driving. All of this is monitored and maintained, and compliance and risk and risk is mitigated all through this boon of IoT, which is really, if you think about it, is the invisible hand that is guiding our life these days.

[00:11:21] JL: Hmm. Boy, this is really fascinating. You think about all the issues that COVID has created, labor shortages in combination with chip shortages with a lot of manufacturers overseas, the ability to forecast, the ability to create more timely information in a manner that allows great decisions to be made. I mean, it just seems like the timing is right for this to explode.

So there's another side of this too, which is fascinating. It's around the data collection. And I know that as these devices are put online there's an opportunity to access and archive a lot of the data. Can you just share with us a little bit about what that opportunity looks like for the future?

[00:12:13] AA: Certainly, John, privacy and security is at the top of everyone's mind especially in light of all the security and data breaches that have occurred in some of the largest corporations in the world. In addition, from a consumer's perspective, who is now more and more concerned about privacy and security? From a corporation perspective, they have to contend with litigation and compliance risk, and above all, reputation risk of offering these data-centric products.

With billions and billions of these devices connected to each other and talking to each other, we are creating data like we have never seen before. But with great power comes a great responsibility. And there are certain common sense practices that can really go a long way in ensuring data and privacy and address some of these concerns that consumers have. Some things like if you have a Wi-Fi connection at home, please make sure that Wi-Fi connection is protected so that no bad actors can get on to your Wi-Fi network. Make sure your Wi-Fi password is adequately complex enough so that it is not easily guessable.

The reason we are trying to nip this problem in the bud is, as I said earlier, Internet of Things, the basic backbone of these devices being connected to each other is the Internet. And as long as we have a secure connection within which the secure ecosystems or devices are talking to each other and they're only sharing data and information with your permission, then we actually have a safe place for these devices to talk to each other and this ecosystem to grow and blossom. In absence of that, you always have the risk of bad actors coming in and exploiting this data set for their own benefit, and sometimes to your detriment and to your harm.

[00:14:15] JL: Yeah. I think we've got a huge issue potentially with adoption when people start thinking about their level of security, the trade-off, and having this connectivity, versus the potential for security risk. But I'd like to go back just for a second to kind of the opportunity and the value proposition associated with data collection. And I also have heard this term IoT metadata. And so explain to us a little bit about what the data collection actually is going to look like over time and what use is this IoT metadata.

[00:14:56] AA: Well, metadata in itself describes what type of data is being handled. So metadata is data about data. So think of it as you have a table that contains data and the metadata tells you what is the type of data should that data be? How many columns does that table have? What are the permitted fields in those different columns? If it has a date, what format the date is in? If it's a number, how many decimals of numbers should that table hold? What are the valid values of the data within a table?

So the metadata is essentially a mechanism for us to describe the data that is being collected and held in a repository. The IoT metadata is an important concept, because as the adoption of Internet of Things is growing, as in more and more devices that we are purchasing are connected to the Internet. They have the ability to talk to each other. They have ability to notify us when they are running low on battery, when they need to be cleaned, when they need servicing. Different manufacturers have come up with their own ways to describe how to collect, how to transmit, and how to use that data.

And this has led to a really a complex web of standards that have come up, which now we're trying to solve for. A good example that I'll give you is we have really matured as a species in our use of communication. Cellphones are a very common thing these days across all spectrums of society, across economies, across geographies and countries. And the European union has recently started conversations about having one singular phone charger through its entire European union.

Now think of the implications of that. There are hundreds of brands of phone manufacturers that have their own set of phone chargers. If we were to converge on one single standard for charging and only have one standard charger in the entire globe, I know this experiment is being proposed in the European Union, but imagine this on a global scale. Then imagine how much waste we can reduce by having these multiple types of charges being produced by hundreds and thousands of smaller companies and the wastage that we can reduce and the efficiency that we can bring into the process. So it's really the harmonization that is coming to the cellphone industry is given its lack of maturity.

But IoT is not there yet. But the Internet of Things does have a huge potential to normalize and harmonize the data, and therefore this metadata is an important concept which can really not only expand its adoption but also make this process and the connectivity more efficient between different devices.

[00:17:56] JL: I've also been hearing a lot about how 5G is going to play into this. I know there're several major companies. I read recently about AT&T and some other carriers are rolling out their networks to do things like monitor bridges to make sure that their structural integrity is there, and also investing in complex networks to create smart cities. Where do you see all of this going? And where's the biggest opportunity for business and industry in the next few years as they assess this technology?

[00:18:37] AA: John, 5G, the promise of 5G is actually real. Quite a few cities here in the US have already seen 5G networks being rolled out. And the promise of 5G is what the promise of broadband was quite a few years ago to the Internet dial-up connection. It is giving the people blazing high speeds of Internet connectivity over the air. You don't have to be connected to a wired device to get one gigabyte connectivity, which is still missing in wireless devices.

So with that massive amount of information coming back and forth, the true promise of 5G is real-time monitoring and reaction, a very low reaction time to events as they unfold in real time. You mentioned these smart cities and the bridges being monitored. Well, the entire precept of Internet of Things is devices being able to talk to each other via the Internet. And as we put on more and more of these devices on the network, there's a larger and larger consumption of the bandwidth that slows the communication down. So think of it as 5G promises to build six additional lanes on a rural highway, which is only a one-way street right now. And that will allow for more and more traffic, in this case, more and more devices to talk to each other at a much faster speed and allow us to react in real time. And this has huge implications all the way from self-driving cars, which do need a lot of data to not only to process but to communicate to each other. And manufacturing, where we have lots of parts and components being consumed on the production floor. And we already are consuming a lot of bandwidth on certain key consumer goods like video and audio. So this frees up the spectrum from moving away from purely as an entertainment medium, not only just watching videos and listening to music, but actually getting the business of life being conducted in a more efficient and faster manner. So I'm very excited about the rollout of the 5G across our footprint.

[00:21:04] JL: Boy! It sounds like the 5G is coming online just at the right time to accelerate the technology and the adoption of this. I'm sure the creativity of how this is going to be used is going to be incredible to watch.

Amit, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you for your insights and helping us kind of see this little revolution that's taking place underneath the surface that most of us don't recognize and now we can pay closer attention. So thanks again for your time and sharing your thoughts with us today.

[00:21:37] AA: Thanks again, John, for having me. Always a pleasure.

[00:21:40] JL: And thank you for joining us on today's episode of DHG GrowthCast. We hope that you have a better understanding of the Internet of Things and how you might harness this technology so that your processes, technology, people and machinery can receive information in real time and act on it.

I'm your host John Locke, and I look forward to reconnecting with you soon on another episode of DHG GrowthCast. And until then, be sure to rate, review and subscribe to DHG GrowthCast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or Podbean.

End of Episode

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