Cloud computing has been the biggest enabler of connected devices and enterprise IoT. Cheaper storage combined with ample computing power is the key driver behind the rise of IIoT. Though it was possible to capture data from various sensors and devices, customers found it prohibitively expensive to store massive datasets. Even after sufficient storage resources were allocated, the computing horse power required to process, query and analyze these datasets was missing in the enterprise data center. Much of the available resources were allocated to data warehouses and business intelligence systems that are critical to businesses. The acceptance of cloud as an extended data center changed the equation. Industry verticals such as manufacturing, automobile, healthcare and aviation are now capturing every possible data point generated by the sensors. They are taking advantage of cloud storage, Big Data and Big Compute capabilities offered by large public cloud providers. This has been the single most important factor in accelerating IIoT adoption in enterprises.
The first generation of IIoT is all about ingesting data and analyzing it. The data points originating from sensors go through multiple stages before transforming into actionable insights. IIoT platforms include extensible data processing pipelines capable of dealing with real-time data that demands immediate attention along with data that only makes sense over a period. The pipeline responsible for processing real-time data is called as Hot Path Analytics. For example, it may be too late before the IoT platform shuts down an LPG refilling machine after detecting an unusual combination of pressure and temperature thresholds. Instead, the anomaly should be detected within milliseconds followed by an immediate action triggered by a rule. The other scenario that demands near real-time processing is healthcare. Vital statistics of the patients are monitored in real time.
As data enters the IoT platform, an ingestion layer will route a subset of that through a pipeline that is designed to deal with the real-time data points. Hot path analytics is one of the fundamental building blocks of enterprise IoT platforms.
At the heart of hot path analytics is the rules engine that is responsible for detecting an anomaly. Enterprise IoT platforms embed a sophisticated rules engine that can dynamically evaluate complex patterns from the inbound sensor data streams. Domain experts with a thorough understanding of the schema and data format define baseline thresholds and routing logic for the rules engine. This logic acts as the critical input to the rules engine in orchestrating the flow of messages. It defines nested if-then conditions that are evaluated against every inbound data point before moving to the next stage of the data processing pipeline.
The rules engine has become the core of enterprise IoT platforms. AWS IoT includes SQL-based rules engine integrated with AWS Lambda. Amazon Kinesis Analytics, the real-time stream analytics service also comes with a rules engine. Same is the case with Azure Stream Analytics, which when combined with Azure Event Hubs delivers dynamic routing capabilities. Almost every industrial IoT platform including GE Predix, SAP Leonardo, PTC Thingworx and IBM Watson have similar rules engines.
One of the key areas of Machine Learning is finding patterns from existing dataset to group similar data points (classification) and to predict the value of future data points. Advanced algorithms related to both supervised and unsupervised ML can be used for classification and predictive analytics. Since these algorithms can learn from existing data, they can identify baseline thresholds without explicitly defining them. Since most of the IoT data is based on time-series, these algorithms can predict future values of sensors based on the historical data.