The Center for Data Innovation spoke with Gary Butler, founder and chief executive officer of Camgian Microsystems, an information systems company based in Starkville, Mississippi. Butler discussed Egburt, a device designed to help manage data from the Internet of Things, and the factors that are enabling the rapid growth of the Internet of Things.
Joshua New: Camgian Microsystems builds products that help manage data coming from the “edge of the network,” which increasingly means the sensors that make up the Internet of Things. Why do organizations need help managing this data?
Gary Butler: All organizations have “blind spots.” That is to say, areas where they have a lack of visibility into critical aspects of their operations. Some examples that we have encountered frequently in the market relate to shopper habits, customer service, equipment failures, physical security, structural health, irrigation, and crop conditions to name a few. Internet of Things solutions fill “blind spots” through the collection and processing of sensor data to deliver sensor-driven decision analytics, which improves operational efficiency and effectiveness.
New: Camgian’s Egburt won the Internet of Things Innovative Product of the Year award at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show. What exactly does Egburt do?
Butler: Egburt is an “end-to-end” platform comprising hardware, software, and communications that supports the cost-effective configuration and deployment of Internet of Things solutions. Egburt is built on an edge computing platform that performs the first level of processing of sensor data locally to reduce communications bandwidth requirements, lower power consumption, and improve overall system performance.
As it relates to bandwidth requirements, limiting data transmission through local or edge processing reduces associated network and storage costs. This is especially significant when considering enterprises potentially operating thousands of Internet of Things devices. Similarly, lowering device level power consumption enables longer endurance battery operations, which is key when devices are deployed in remote locations without access to AC power. Improving battery life in such scenarios has a direct impact on asset maintenance and the overall costs associated with the long term operation of remotely deployed Internet of Things systems.
New: At a recent Internet of Things technology showcase, we discussed the potential Egburt has for things like smart cities and smart infrastructure. Can you elaborate on some of these applications?
Butler: We are developing new applications built on Egburt that will enable scalable, affordable solutions for evaluating the structural health and operations of critical civil infrastructure such as bridges, dams, levees and waterways. Egburt’s low-power design, cellular connectivity, and programmable sensor interfaces provide the capability to configure and remotely deploy heterogeneous sensor networks that feed a single cloud-based data analytics and graphical user interface platform.
For example, in the area of smart infrastructure, we are leveraging commercially available sensor technologies with Egburt to produce both real-time actionable intelligence and higher-level data analytics. For such applications, ruggedized Egburt devices will be deployed on remote infrastructure and locally process sensor data collected from various locations on a specific asset. Analytics performed at the device level will generate real-time alerts and updates, which will be communicated to local operations personnel. Moreover, sensor information from multiple assets will be aggregated, processed, and fused at the cloud level to provide a single, unified enterprise view for remote personnel with a broader range of operational, engineering, and management responsibilities.
New: Egburt is also advertised as a smart agriculture solution. How are farmers using the Internet of Things?
Butler: Internet of Things technologies have the potential to instrument farming operations with sensors and analytical tools, which help growers optimize crop production and costs. These include sensors that produce data direct from the farms related to irrigation, crop health, soil conditions, and farming equipment, which is processed using software analytics to identify potential issues, key trends, and opportunities for cost savings.
New: You have been involved with sensor technologies for over a decade. Why are we seeing the Internet of Things really take off now instead of years ago?
Butler: In my opinion, the current growth in the Internet of Things market is being fueled by the confluence of two trends. The first is advancements in key component technologies that drive Internet of Things solutions and the maturity of their associated development tools. These include high-performance, low-power processing technologies, wireless communications and cloud based data storage, analytics, and visualization software. Secondly, the decreasing costs and affordability of such technologies have enabled the creation of new business models around the Internet of Things that are delivering increasingly attractive value propositions across a range of different industries.
Specifically, this includes falling system costs at both the device and network levels. Because of architectural similarities, the Internet of Things stands to significantly benefit from ongoing advancements in the smartphone market whose large volumes and increasing competition are dramatically reducing prices throughout the value chain. This includes key component parts such as sensors, embedded processors, memory, and cellular modems whose steady price declines will continue to drive cost reductions for developing new Internet of Things endpoint applications and thus ease capital requirements for enterprise deployment. Similarly, price reductions continue to occur in cellular communications that support Internet of Things device connectivity. As demand for Internet of Things devices increases, prices for both 3G and 4G networks will continue to decline, which will drive reductions in recurring operational expenses for enterprise solutions. Additionally, expanded use of cloud services for the Internet of Things and the benefits of their elastic pricing models will enable cost-effective computational resources that will further reduce cost of ownership and improve the value proposition for enterprise clients.