IBM, Cisco Take IoT Analytics To The Edge

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IBM's Watson IoT platform, in conjunction with Cisco's edge analytics capabilities, could allow businesses to analyze IoT data closer to its source.

On Thursday, IBM and Cisco said they are working together to bring business analytics to the edge of the network. The collaboration is meant to offer companies operating in bandwidth-constrained environments more options for gaining insight into connected equipment.

The arrangement makes IBM's Watson IoT platform available in conjunction with the edge analytics capabilities made possible by Cisco's Connected Streaming Analytics portfolio and by its recent acquisition of ParStream.

The shift away from on-premises computing toward cloud computing has many advantages for companies in terms of hardware maintenance and the ability to scale with demand. But bandwidth limitations can undermine the model, particularly when the data flowing to and from remote devices is time-sensitive or extensive.

With its routers and gateways near the edge of the network, Cisco sees an opportunity to handle computational tasks at points where devices connect to the network, rather than at some distant data center.

Cisco and IBM are working with Bell Canada to provide connectivity over its 4G LTE network, because many industrial IoT applications are designed for intermittent cellular connectivity (vending machines that phone home for replenishment, for example) rather than for WiFi or dedicated network connections.

Mike Flannagan, VP and general manager for Cisco's data and analytics group, in a blog post said that businesses with intermittent network connectivity can now take advantage of cloud computing and analytics by eliminating the need to transmit nonessential data. "The combination of these technical capabilities provides the flexibility of processing and analyzing data everywhere, at the edge and in the cloud, so it can be leveraged in time and context as the business needs to use it," he said.

In its 2015 report "The Internet of Things: Mapping the Value Beyond the Hype," global consultancy McKinsey & Company reports that the data available to organizations from industrial sensors is underutilized. For example, it says that less than 1% of the data generated by the estimated 30,000 sensors on an offshore oil rig is currently used to make decisions. Analyzing such IoT data in a factory setting could bring energy savings of 10%-20% and labor-efficiency gains of 10%-25%, the firm claims.

For several years, the Port of Cartagena in Columbia has been monitoring assets like rubber tire gantries, cranes, and trucks to improve efficiency and reduce maintenance costs. It recently began using the IBM Watson IoT Platform with Cisco streaming edge analytics to predict equipment failure and needs for preventive maintenance.

The new capabilities made possible by IBM and Cisco will help provide insight into the health and operations of more than 47 rubber tire gantries and 180 trucks utilized by the port, said Eduardo Bustamante, director of operations for the Port of Cartagena, in a statement. "As a result, we expect to be more productive in our maintenance processes to help ensure our fleet runs even more efficiently and vessels and cargo are moving smoothly in and out of our port."

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