How real-time data is transforming five industries

Big data is important, but real-time data is becoming the next big thing in the manufacturing, retail, agriculture, logistics and healthcare industries

25Mar

Through a combination of innovative technologies and more robust data, many businesses are undergoing what's known as a digital transformation. The data coming in – from many different sources – is being used to upgrade processes, products and strategies.

As this type of transformation becomes more rampant, many organizations are starting to realize that the data must be utilized properly, as opposed to simply being collected and stored. Raw data is essentially useless until it can be analyzed and processed, at which point valuable insights are extracted.

This extracted data is being used differently across many industries. In manufacturing, for example, data is used to improve operations by making machinery, processes and even personnel more efficient. This boosts the output of products and goods, all of which contributes to a stronger revenue stream.

But in healthcare, data is used much differently. It's meant to strengthen patient treatment and increase the effectiveness of medical care.

Here are some additional examples of real-time data being used across various industries:

Manufacturing

As with the other industries, smart sensors and real-time data are being used for many things. The most useful in manufacturing, however, is for maintenance.

Manufacturing equipment isn't just expensive – it takes a lot of attention to maintain and keep operational. Furthermore, every delay or shutdown exponentially increases the amount of money lost. Delays do quite a number on output levels.

Smart sensors and data can be used to deliver preventative maintenance to equipment. The information reveals when the hardware needs to be serviced or even when a problem might be brewing. This allows technicians to keep the system operational, or replace it sooner than they would have without the incoming data.

The data also allows factory and plant managers to monitor vital data, which can then be used to optimize the entire operation. Temperature and vibration sensors, for example, can be used to point out major slowdowns.

Retail

Through continuous streams of data, retailers are able to react and respond in real-time, meaning they can be much more competitive. It also allows for omnichannel and cross-platform experiences. For example, customers can open a line of communication through social DMs, then move to live chat or email while the discussion remains seamless.

Merchandise and goods are also affected by real-time data, particularly when it comes to the level of customization available. It's not just the items themselves that are tailored for individual customers – thanks to a push to move manufacturing closer to consumers – but recommendations and experiences are, too. RFID tags embedded within packaging can reveal a lot about how goods are handled, who adds them to their cart, and who makes the final purchase.

Foot traffic can even be analyzed to discern the appropriate locations for stores or displays, optimize store layouts and even to deliver targeted promotions.

All of these things help boost the overall performance and delivery of retail experiences, making the end result better for the customer and more lucrative for the business.

Agriculture

Real-time data coming from connected sensors is transforming the bulk of the agriculture industry. Farmers are much more informed about their crops, allowing them to precisely control irrigation, pesticides, treatments and even harvest times. More importantly, the information coming in can be used to boost yields for future crops.

In its basic form, real-time data can be used to build a topographical map of fields and resources and then monitor them without stepping foot outdoors. The sensors provide information about soil acidity, humidity, moisture levels, crop health, sunlight and more.

Beyond just greenery, the same sensors and data can be used to monitor livestock, too. Alerts can be programmed for feeding times, to monitor their health and equipment, or even to provide vital stats. Again, the stats can be used to further optimize and improve their processes.

What it translates to is a much smarter, more clued-in agriculture industry that sees increased output with healthier, fresher crops and goods.

Logistics

In logistics and fulfillment, real-time data is being used not just to make processes more accurate, but also to improve transparency and safety.

In large warehouses, for example, real-time data can help order pickers and digital tools find the appropriate goods. RFID tags and smart shelving can speed up the discovery process and also ensure the items are correctly chosen.

With fleets, real-time data can be used to monitor the whereabouts of a shipment and also various conditions along their route. With perishable foods, for instance, storage temperature readings can be collected. If those temperatures drop, for whatever reason, it could mean the food is contaminated and needs to be pulled from the supply. Real-time data can be used to identify those items, remove them and prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses.

Finally, the data is also being used to deliver orders closer to the customer. Consider Amazon's drone-based delivery service, which will take into account inventory in the customer's local area. If the item is available close by, the drones can deliver the goods in a remarkably short time.

Healthcare

As healthcare costs rise, and with a shortage of personnel to deliver treatments and more nuanced forms of medicine, it's becoming more and more difficult to identify and deliver the right solutions.

Real-time data is the key, allowing medical professionals to get a much better understanding of their patients. Wearables and monitors can be attached to patients to identify things like heart rate, blood pressure and much more. Collectively, the information is fed into a machine learning system – along with the patient's history – to come up with an accurate diagnosis. This ensures the patient can be treated properly and in a timely manner, lowering the risk and potential for further damage.

Real-time data is also being used to keep the entire environment more organized. Equipment can be tracked no matter where it is on campus. Medical professionals and doctors can be communicated with from anywhere. Even patient scheduling and management can be handled using real-time traffic data.

Real-time data is transforming the world

At this point, it's clear that real-time data has a significant impact just about everywhere it's used. And it will continue to have a lasting impact on the world at large as more and more data is collected, processed and put to use.

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