The Internet of Things is the Land of Opportunity
By Neil Cameron, General Manager, Johnson Controls Building Efficiency.
The worldwide web most of us are familiar with is a place populated by about 2.5 billion people who go online to find information, entertainment and shopping, or to stay in touch with friends and share ideas with colleagues. The internet was made by people, for people.
But now it has become the Internet of Things (IoT). Experts predict that in a few years there could be 100 billion devices—actual physical things—connected to the web. Some of these devices are online today and more, many more, are coming soon.
In the IoT, devices equipped with sensors, hardware and software are networked together through the internet, where they can communicate with one another, machine-to-machine (M2M). Intelligent devices are changing the way we eat, drive, communicate, receive medical care, light our cities and consume energy.
Sensors embedded in roads control traffic flow. Vending machines tell us when they need to be refilled. A heart patient’s pacemaker alerts her cardiologist to a problem before it becomes dangerous. With sensors in the soil, farm fields know when they need to be irrigated and fertilised.
Nowhere is the impact of the IoT felt more than in the world of building efficiency. The big game-changer is M2M communication, coupled with sophisticated new tools like cloud-based solutions and applications, which analyse the massive amounts data gathered by sensors and turn it into useful information that helps building managers do their jobs better. Imagine thousands of electrical switches, thermostats, lights, door locks, air-handling units, chillers and other components gathering and sharing data. Even solving problems on their own.
We are seeing this more acutely in the South African market where buildings aggregate information or data from sensors but there isn’t a significant uptake to ‘share’ this information over the ‘Internet’, ultimately underpinning smart environments that lead to smart cities. However, value is certainly being derived with real-time communication and access to data which delivers a number of benefits such as proactive monitoring of the facility and the early detection of failure which can significantly reduce downtime.
In the very near future, lights equipped with sensors that detect the presence or absence of building occupants will cut energy consumption by an estimated 50 to 75 percent. Interconnected units of equipment will work together to find the most efficient way to heat or cool a facility without human intervention. Machines will diagnose their own need for maintenance, which will be scheduled automatically. Total integration will become a reality.
This is all happening now because two important drivers are in place: Opportunity and necessity.
Advances in wireless networking technology and standardised communication protocols make it possible to collect data from sensors almost anywhere, any time. Silicon chips continue to get smaller and more powerful even as their cost drops. Advancements like cloud computing make it possible to crunch numbers and store data on a never-before-seen scale, again with declining costs.
And there are real needs. As the global demand for energy rises, sustainability and energy efficiency aren’t just good financial goals —they’re becoming mandates in many countries, creating new and very real business challenges.
The IoT gives us the power to meet these challenges, and the opportunity to redefine absolutely every aspect of our industry. Because when everything works together, everything works better, works more efficiently and lasts longer than ever before. And it doesn’t stop with making buildings more efficient. Because the IoT makes us humans work better and more efficiently, too.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”