IBM today announced that it will invest $3 billion over the next four years to establish a new Internet of Things (IoT) business unit to help customers analyze data from sensor-equipped devices. The enterprise technology provider further plans to deploy a cloud-based platform to assist customers in building IoT business applications.

Within the announcement is the creation of three service support components:

  • A cloud-based open platform for providing analytics services for vertical industry IoT applications
  • A termed platform-as-a-service Bluemix IoT Zone to assist developers to integrate sensor data into cloud-based applications, by infusing more real-time sensor data into applications.
  • An expansion of IoT focused partner ecosystem ranging from silicon and device manufacturers to industry-focused applications providers such as AT&T, ARM, Semtech and others.

In conjunction with today’s announcement, IBM further announced a new strategic partnership with The Weather Company through WSI, its global B2B and analytics arm. WSI collects data from thousands of weather sensors resulting in upwards of 2.2 billion unique forecast points. Such weather data can be correlated with business applications where weather plays an influencing factor. Think of the how the consumption of beer, certain snacks, bottled water or cosmetics are influenced by weather or climatic conditions. Think about how weather impacts business operations.

The announcement calls for The Weather Company, including WSI, to shift its massive weather data services platform to the IBM Cloud and integrate its data with IBM analytics and cloud services. The analytics aspects call for the use of Watson Analytics for Weather to leverage applications within industries such as insurance, energy and utilities, retail and logistics and other areas.

What makes these announcements ever more interesting is that weather can influence many supply chain related business and operational processes. Whether it is specific product demand patterns requiring unique customer fulfillment trends and needs, or weather impacting both product and services focused supply chains themselves, there is certainly lots of opportunities for innovation.

Today’s IBM announcement adds more stakes to the technology competitive landscape as providers such as Amazon, Cisco Systems, General Electric, Microsoft, PTC and Qualcomm continue to jockey and position their technology ecosystems in order to be a preferred provider of IoT enabled applications and supporting infrastructure in either B2C or B2B dimensions. There remain many ongoing pitfalls and challenges surrounding full-scale IoT deployment, not the least of which is information and data security. The consortiums and influence of larger vendors along with their building ecosystems are the determinants as to how quickly these challenges are overcome.

In the meantime, today’s IBM announcement provides the real opportunity for bringing together weather sensors and trending data, prescriptive and predictive analytics tools, and business process support applications for more responsive industry supply chains.

Bob Ferrari