Published in CIO Today UK, Jan 2015

Morgan Stanley recently predicted there will be 75 billion connected devices in use worldwide by 2020, a number rapidly approaching the estimated 86 billion neurons in the human brain. We know that human intelligence comes not from the sum of neurons in our brains, but from the connections between them and the way they interact with each other. While one could easily take this analogy too far, two points are worth taking away. The first is that it’s the connections as mush as the devices that will truly bring forth the latent possibilities in the Internet of Things (IoT). Devices in isolation will do very little. The second is that we’re not just speaking about billions of connections, the IoT will have many, many trillions of connections.

As a result, the Internet of Things should really be referred to as the ‘Internet of Connected Things’. This concept shifts the meaning of ‘product’ to encompass more that just individual tangible objects and enables businesses to considuer not just what products are, but what they could become if connected in different ways. Understanding and managing these connections by using the right tools will ultimately be at least as important for businesses as understanding and managing the devices themselves.

Imagination is key to unlocking the value of connected things. For example, in a telecommunications or aviation network, the question, “what problems?” or “Which plane is going to arrive late?” becomes: “What is the impact of the problem on the rest of the network?”

The connections between devices and other entities can change faster than the data describing each thing. With Telco data, for example, each time you call a new person or authorise a new device, you make a connection. The same is true in an industrial setting, when a new piece of equipment comes online it will look for the relevant controllers or other devices that it needs to listen to or send data to.

Understanding connection is the key to understanding dependencies and uncovering cascading impacts. Such insight allows businesses to identify opportunities for new services and products that make the most of the IoT. To identify these opportunities, businesses need access to the tools that can show these connections in quick and easy way.

This is where graph databases come in. Graph databases are essential to discovering, capturing and making sense of complex interdependences and relationships, both for running an IT organisation more effectively and to build the next generation of functionality for businesses. They are designed to easily model and navigate networks of data, with extremely high performance, which is why they have been so popular with social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn already. And now they are increasing being adopted by forward thinking companies looking to extract maximum value from the Internet of Things.

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