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Age of Instrumentation Creates Unprecedented Business Opportunity

Companies that leverage data in real time to improve the customer experience, expand product offerings and become a data-driven enterprise have a competitive edge that will propel them into new data-driven opportunities.
By Mark Herring
May 30, 2018

Throughout history, innovation has resulted in unrealized dependencies, with little initial understanding of the magnitude of need they have created. Back when cars were invented, no one could have foreseen the world's future reliance on gasoline. And with the proliferation of devices in our lives, who can live without their Wi-Fi connectivity? With these major disruptive technologies, new industries are borne, and companies that embrace and leverage these changes see exponential results.

Today, we live in the age of instrumentation. Every available surface in the material world—streets, cars, factories, power grids, ice caps, satellites, clothing, phones, microwaves, milk containers, planets, human bodies, even recently cows—can be connected. Everything has, or has the potential to have, a sensor. In parallel, we are seeing the instrumentation of the virtual world as, with trends such as microservices, containerization, elastic storage and software-defined networking all pushing increasing volumes of metrics and events of status information, even down to the smallest of software components.

Companies have the opportunity to capture and analyze all of these new data streams to find greater business insight and interesting business moments that will enable them to make real-time decisions deriving massive competitive advantage. For instance, a power company might use this information to re-orient each wind turbine to achieve 5 percent greater yield in energy production, or a retailer might understand its customer journey and be able increase in-store sales by 20 percent by relevant cross and upsell promotions. What we're witnessing, and what the times demand, is a paradigmatic shift in how we approach our data infrastructure and how we approach building, monitoring, controlling and managing this data for competitive advantage.

While there are thousands of different applications and use cases for which organizations are gaining competitive advantage instrumenting systems and monitoring and analyzing the data, here's one that is particularly unique. Instrumentation might seem high-tech, but this use case involves Internet of Things (IoT) sensor monitoring that is making a profound difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of families and children in rural Africa.

The company at the center of this effort is BBOXX (pronounced "Bee Box," short for "Battery Box"), which develops and manufactures products to provide affordable, clean solar energy to off-grid communities in the developing world. Its systems include a solar panel connected to a battery and a set of USB and DC connectors to power lights, radios and low-powered televisions. The units also include a set of electronics to allow BBOXX to control it remotely.

In these African countries, communities rely on light from burning kerosene, creating soot and toxic fumes that permeate the home as a family is together at night and the children try to study. BBOXX had an idea for an effective solution: an instrumented, solar-powered "Battery Box" placed in each home to power lights and appliances, such as TVs, lights and mobile phones. There were many technology hurdles to overcome to make this idea a reality, including the fact that cellular technology for remote connectivity was sparsely deployed. BBOXX thus had to find databases that could handle the volume of time series data needed to monitor and control these millions of data points per second.

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