IBM Launches Major Internet Of Things Offensive

31 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Can Weather Data Alter Business Decisions? IBM Thinks So.

IBM Corp is investing US$3 billion to build an Internet of Things division aimed at harnessing the massive trove of data collected by smartphones, tablets, connected vehicles and appliances, and using it to help companies better manage their businesses.As part of a new deal between the companies, The Weather Company will shift its massive weather data services platform to the IBM Cloud and integrate its data with IBM analytics and cloud services.”Our knowledge of the world grows with every connected sensor and device, but too often we are not acting on it, even when we know we can ensure a better result,” Bob Picciano, senior vice president of IBM Analytics, said in a statement.

The move signals a commitment by IBM to broaden its offerings as it focuses on new projects, especially after a year with rocky financials and a “disappointing” outlook for 2015. “Weather is perhaps the single largest external swing factor in business performance – responsible for an annual economic impact of nearly half a trillion dollars in the U.S. alone,” according to IBM. The Armonk, New York, company hopes to change this by teaming up with companies such as Twitter and the Weather Co, the owner of the Weather Channel, to develop cloud-based data services and tools for app developers. The partnership will focus first on data services for retailers, insurance companies and utilities, all of which stand to save plenty of money from earlier insight into real-time forecasts. “Fundamentally, our mission is to help businesses anticipate weather and take action,” said Mark Gildersleeve, president of WSI, the Weather Company’s division responsible for business-to-business relationships.

The company said that it will be able to use cloud computing to process data collected data from “more than 100,000 weather sensors and aircraft, millions of smartphones, buildings and even moving vehicles.” Among the firms that IBM says could benefit from the new Weather Channel partnership are insurance companies, which could use Big Blue’s data to save money by halting operations or change their offerings based on weather forecasts. What’s worse: As much as 60 percent of that information loses value within milliseconds of being generated. “IBM will enable clients and industry partners [to] apply IoT data to build solutions based on an open platform,” Picciano said. “This is a major focus of investment for IBM because it’s a rich and broad-based opportunity where innovation matters.” For instance, a cloud-based feature could help insurance companies extract insight from connected cars.

Using IBM’s Bluemix platform-as-a-service, developers can enrich existing applications—enterprise asset management, facilities management, software engineering design tools—by adding real-time data and embedding analytics. IBM has actually had several pieces in place for some time, but it has been fragmented, says Joel Cawley, GM for information and Insights as a Service at IBM. More than 2,000 IBM researchers, software developers and consultants will be dedicated to delivering real-time insights delivered via the cloud to business and government clients, IBM added in a blog.

Not only can weather data help better predict electricity demand, it is invaluable for renewable energy developers. “Any company that can manage the energy supply-demand volatility better (e.g. via better trading) has a strong market advantage,” said Holger Kisker, vice president and research director for Forrester Research. Gildersleeve offers the example of one auto-insurance carrier that already uses WSI data to send weather alerts to policyholders, warning them of approaching hailstorms. The service has already helped reduce potential damage by 52% in regions typically affected by those sort of damage, he said. “The skill in weather forecasts has improved faster than the skill in decision-making,” Gildersleeve said. “Every business needs a weather strategy, but most don’t. Business and Operational Weather Expertise: Consultants from IBM Global Business Services will be trained to combine WSI data with other sources to help interpret “industry pain points”, the companies said, and provide new insights to help solve business problems. Retail: Each winter, retailers in snowy areas see patterns in which storm forecasts drive spikes in sales of goods and tools such as groceries, shovels, sand, salt and cold-weather gear.

Insurance companies, power companies, and governments all need weather data to help proactively make better determinations instead of simply reacting to the weather after the fact. The ability to better understand and predict the impact of such weather events allows retailers to adjust staffing and supply chain strategies as needed – regionally and nationwide. He points to a project IBM did in China monitoring air pollution as something the company could package using the platform components and sell to other countries with a similar requirement.

Tonight’s announcement fits in with a much bigger picture of IBM’s strategies and priorities moving forward, whether it’s Watson processing big data, its cloud strategy or analytics. Colin has been a computer journalist for some 30 years having started in the business the same year that the IBM PC was launched, although the first piece he wrote was about computer audit. He was at one time editor of Computing magazine in London and prior to that held a number of editing jobs, including time spent at the late DEC Compu… A key piece of this approach is building a platform play across the different categories and IBM wants very much to attract developers to this vision.

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