IBM sets up $3bn IoT unit to integrate unused data

IBM to invest $3bn by 2019 in a new internet of things unit to address the fact that 90% of data generated by smart devices is never used

IBM is to invest $3bn in a dedicated internet of things (IoT) unit over the next four years and will build an open, cloud-based platform to help customers make sense of, and better integrate, unused real-time data streams from dispersed IoT devices into their business processes.

IBM has already conducted a lot of work around applications of the IoT in the enterprise world through its Smarter Planet and Smarter Cities programmes, producing offerings that have helped reduce crime, minimise risk for firefighters and monitor water quality, among other things. 

Now it believes it can lead in future IoT implementations that “securely combine and analyse data from a wide variety of sources”.

It hopes to bring this data integration expertise to bear as the number of connected devices around the world heads towards the tens of billions.

It will make the data available on an open platform to enable developers to design and manufacture new connected devices, systems and applications.

“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,” said Bob Picciano, senior vice-president at IBM Analytics.

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“This is a major focus of investment for IBM because it is a rich and broad-based opportunity where innovation matters. Over the next decade, integration of IoT in business operations and decision-making will transform business.”

Unused data quickly loses value

Big Blue reckons that 90% of data currently generated by connected devices, including smartphones, tablets, connected cars and appliances, is not analysed or acted on, and most of it begins to lose its value within seconds of being generated.

The firm's IoT Cloud Open Platform for Industry – which will be open to partners as well as customers – aims to address this unused data by collecting it in a format that will help users make sense of it.

For example, a motor insurance company could extract better insight from connected vehicles to generate dynamic pricing models and customised services for drivers, said Big Blue.

It will also add new IoT services to its Bluemix platform-as-a-service offering to enable IoT data to be integrated into cloud-based development and deployment of IoT apps, enabling developers to enrich their existing business process apps by embedding more thorough analytics capabilities inside them.

IBM said it would also expand its IoT partner ecosystem around silicon, device firms and solution providers to ensure secure and seamless integration of data services on its platform.

To this end, it has announced a partnership with meteorological organisation The Weather Company to draw from data sources that include more than 100,000 weather sensors, aircraft and drones, to optimise understanding of the impact of weather on businesses.

Read more on Internet of Things (IoT)

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I'm really tired of these announcements that big blue will invest some large number in some initiative. What does that mean /exactly/? 

In some cases, it means purchasing promising companies in the space, which is fair enough - but I bet IBM will spend under $100 million on that. Instead, I suspect they'll create a new business unit that rents office space from big blue corporate and takes on the the payroll of existing IBM employees. In other news - a re-org, not expected to make a profit for some time. The $3Bil is runway - the largest amount IBM is willing to spend before shutting down the unit.

Or something. I don't really know, and IBM certainly isn't telling. It's enough to make one want to start some investigative research ...
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