Build Data Quality Into the Internet of Things

With traditional data, we’ve become used to the idea that people are the main sources of issues relating to data, CIO Journal Columnists Thomas H. Davenport and Thomas C. Redman write. But the emergence of connected devices driving ever more complex industrial processes demands a new response from companies on how best to guarantee data quality.

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Standards are the obvious answer, but they take a devilishly long time and much effort. For example, the development of the EPCGlobal (electronic product code for radio frequency identification) standard took about 15 years. The development of the ANSI X12 standard for electronic data interchange took about 14 years. We don’t want to wait that long for anything these days, and standards development could really slow down the process of the IoT movement.

Beyond understanding the issues and trying to help establish standards, what must a technologist actually do?  We take as a general rule of thumb that bad data is like a virus. There is no telling where it will end up or the damage it will cause. With viruses the basic idea is to try to prevent the virus in the first place and do all you can to contain it.  –  For data quality and the Internet of Things, preventing the virus means excellent design, manufacturing, and installation of the IoT device. Since such devices are typically made by someone (a semiconductor manufacturer, for example) other than the user, buyers must insist the device actually measures what it purports to measure. This implies both specification of the intended measurement and rigorous testing, under both laboratory and real-world conditions, to ensure that is what actually occurs. What is a “step,” for example, and does the device actually count them properly?

The specification should spell out operating conditions. Recall we noted that the example of a health tracking device not working so well on the treadmill. The specification should spell out everything you’ll need to use the device successfully in practice: what you need to do to install and test it, its expected lifetime, how you’ll know when it is time to maintain or replace the device, and so forth.  Insist on two levels of calibration from your device supplier. First, there should be rigorous calibration before the device leaves the factory, and an “on-installation” calibration routine to ensure that the device works as expected. Second, ongoing calibration is required to make sure the device continues to work properly. Ideally, the on-installation and ongoing calibration routines should built-in and automated.   To contain bad data, devices should come equipped with what we call “I’m not working right now” and “I’m broken and must be replaced” features, which do exactly what their names suggest.  Finally, you should not expect perfection, particularly with new devices. But you must insist on rapid improvement. So it is critical that the manufacturer aggregate and analyze the results of all these steps, looking for patterns that suggest improvements. Seek answers to basic questions such as: can the devices really be trusted? Are they lasting as long as expected? What is causing them to fail?

See on Scoop.itInternet of Things – Technology focus


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