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Tech Stocks

Maturing Gracefully

By Jason R. Koepke, on Jul. 13, 2016

The internet of things involves the connection of a growing number of consumer products and capital equipment to the cloud for automation and data collection. You may be familiar with the connected home, where residents can monitor and control lights, thermostats, smoke detectors, security systems, locks and other features remotely, via their smartphones.

Discussions of this phenomenon often focus on sensors and the data they generate. But how systems learn from the information collected and communicate to the sensors is arguably more important. The internet of things doesn’t exist purely for monitoring functionality; these systems aim to identify subtle but meaningful patterns and respond with smart, automated actions.

Consider a jet engine. Human technicians might have a mental checklist of phenomena that indicate an engine might be due for an inspection.

But computers can analyze real-time data for early signs of a breakdown and automatically schedule the engine for preventative maintenance. This system could provide the engineers working on the repair with a report and task list based on that engine’s history and the past experiences of units that have exhibited similar warning signs. Meanwhile, this integrated solution might also assign other planes to take over the temporarily decommissioned jet’s routes.

The resulting efficiencies add up quickly. More timely and targeted maintenance involves less expense than intensive rebuilds where multiple components fail and full inspections to diagnose the problem. And the overall system experiences less downtime and capacity outages.

This integration plays out across most industries, albeit with varying levels of sophistication. Mining and manufacturing have embraced these technologies, but data centers also include sensors that monitor hundreds of items—from the temperature in a rack to the vibrations coming from the server and even the electrical noise from back-up batteries. All this surveillance aims to identify issues before they become service outages that could affect customers negatively.

Given the advantages associated with connecting ph

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