Internet Of Things: Are You Underestimating Video? - InformationWeek

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6/9/2014
09:06 AM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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Internet Of Things: Are You Underestimating Video?

Whether you want an easier way to collect data or connect to customers, video is ready to play a bigger role.

The hype around the huge market opportunity known as the Internet of Things is giving short shrift to one basic source of data input: video.

Sure, there's a lot of anxiety about widespread video surveillance, but I'm talking here about the everyday, run-your-business kinds of video use, the kinds where privacy concerns aren't a factor. It's using video to look at machines your company owns, for example, or to interact with customers to provide better service.

Bill Ruh, vice president and global technology director at Internet of Things champion GE, calls video "the most underutilized sensor in the industrial market," and the story isn't much different in the consumer and customer service worlds. IT leaders must ask their business colleagues this simple question: Would it help if you could see that?

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Think of video on two broad fronts. One is video as a sensor -- as an inspector, checking out equipment such as a railroad or a gas pipeline and using automated analysis of images to know when more in-depth human evaluation is needed.

(Source: Wikipedia)
(Source: Wikipedia)

The second video scenario is for ad-hoc collaboration, now that so many customers and employees are carrying high-quality video cameras with them all the time on their smartphones. Problems that have required a complicated text or voice description now can be captured in a 15-second "look at this" real-time or recorded video.

Here are examples of those two scenarios that we've written about recently.

Track inspections
Union Pacific is doing a lot of experiments and implementations using video cameras as another type of sensor around its trains and tracks to bring in data for analysis. "I don't mean video as in YouTube," CIO Lynden Tennison says. "I mean leveraging video to make business decisions."

For example, a business problem for Union Pacific is how to inspect rail ties efficiently. Currently, inspectors physically travel along the tracks to look for rot or cracks in the wooden or concrete ties along thousands of miles of track. In

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Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek and co-chair of the InformationWeek Conference. He has been covering technology leadership and CIO strategy issues for InformationWeek since 1999. Before that, he was editor of the Budapest Business Journal, a business newspaper in ... View Full Bio
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ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
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6/12/2014 | 10:28:23 AM
Re: Intelligent HD Cameras Streaming Updates Still Need High Bandwidth and Video Analytics on Backend
zaious, you're getting at a really important change of mindset -- we don't instinctively think video. but that mindset will change, and I suspect ad hoc video will increasingly become part of how we collaborate. I talked with IT leader of a furniture business, and he found this when he gave warehouse teams iPads -- they started shooting quick-hit video of material coming in if they saw something that looked to be sub-par quality, and would send that to the buyer who could say accept, reject, or let me look closer. This cultural change is something for IT to be in tune with, and ready to support.  (I've never made a video comment!)
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
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6/11/2014 | 9:38:38 PM
Re: Intelligent HD Cameras Streaming Updates Still Need High Bandwidth and Video Analytics on Backend
Interesting experience Gordfras, sounds like you're living deep in this world. One question -- so how does video analytics add to the bandwidth problem? 
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
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6/10/2014 | 11:58:48 AM
Re: Interesting angle
Hi Gil, good to hear from you. What struck me in talking with Union Pacific is that their team feels like they have a pretty good grip on data volume, and that their analytics are doing a solid job making sense of that data coming in. What they're really looking for is better, more affordable ways to collect the vital data to analyze. And that's why they're running a lot of experiments with video -- video and cameras as just another sensor.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
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6/10/2014 | 11:44:52 AM
Re: Are You Underestimating Video?
zerox, your emphasis on video as an alternative is really good, and it makes me think of how IT is going to have to help customer service/maintenance teams toggle between text and video. Not necessarily easy to do elegantly. Thanks for all the feedback, zerox.  
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