Bill Roberts, director of Global IoT practice, SAS, and Grant Dyer, Principal Industry Consultant – Telecommunications, Energy and Utilities, SAS ANZ, explained to iTWire that SAS, still privately owned after 42 years and consistently ranked the world’s leading analytics software provider, started its IoT division in November last year.
IoT is not new to SAS, Roberts says, however “prior to November we were pretty opportunistic and reactive to IoT. We recognised across all industries IoT was emerging as a key disruptive influence that customers were talking about and struggling with".
In particular, SAS recognised IoT was propagating a wave of data through mass quantities of devices and sensors. While SAS came from the position of being market leader in advanced analytics it was not necessarily viewed as an IoT player at that time. However, “IoT really fit under several paradigms SAS was already operating in”, he says.
“IoT is fundamentally an analytics play,” Roberts says. “AI, big data, edge – the SAS platform deals with all that in a really robust way. We do analytics all the way from simple through to robust artificial intelligence and machine learning models and everything in between.”
While discussions about IoT often focus on sensors and connectivity, SAS took a different approach. “Understanding where data and real value comes from in these IoT initiatives is about drawing insights from the data and putting them into operations to drive efficiency or a new value chain,” Roberts (below, right) says.
“IoT is also fundamentally an ecosystem play,” he adds. “End-to-end from sensor to valuable outcome there really is no single technology or vendor to get you there. It’s a team sport in that respect.”
SAS had advanced analytics in a traditional sense but did not have a paradigm to execute analytics as part of its lifecycle in an operational world. The company had to develop the technology to do that while also leveraging an ecosystem of hardware and software to get to the edge. “Think of edge analytics, a subset of streaming analytics, and work with partners like Cisco and others to allow us to secure, gain access to data, put analytics lifecycle inside it,” Roberts says.
"IoT is also fundamentally a channel or partner play,” he says. “IoT gives SAS an opportunity to innovate business.”
To illustrate, Roberts points to GE Transportation, a global provider to rail, mining and related industries. The company has found it can provide, and sell, services on top of its GE locomotives and these services are more valuable when they leverage data provided in and around the train, such as improving fuel efficiency and making the assets more available.
“SAS can be a provider to GE of analytic capability to their market and they became a channel for us. We see the ability to replicate that model at scale is a new revenue driver for SAS.”
Roberts says he is currently in Australia to understand and establish similar opportunities here.
Of course, SAS Australia has already forged an arrangement with the University of Technology, Sydney, in conjunction with Cisco, creating a world first innovation lab.
“The exciting thing is the partnership is a lab, a sandpit, an accelerator all-in-one. Step-by-step it will be working with industry-aligned use cases rather than developing for development’s sake,” Dyer states. “University students are engaged in this process and researchers are engaged and all are aligned to industry outcomes.”
The first use-case for the innovation lab is micro-grids, using a model within the UTS environment that has created an artificial micro-grid through mathematics. The lab is modelling its lifecycle and understanding how it can be applicable to the energy environment such as forecasting energy, or how micro-generators can push power up the grid, with the model looking at historic artefacts to learn and use these to give insights as real-time events kick in.
Another example SAS speaks about is the town of Cary, North Carolina, and how it brought in automated water meters as part of its Smart City direction. The town manages water supply as a utility and justified the cost of the meters based on the savings from no longer having people manually reading meters. Now the meters collect data the town finds it can interact with citizens in near real-time about leaks in their home or other events.
“It makes the town good stewards of an important resource,” Roberts says. “Cary also noticed other value chains coming off this new data source. For example, public safety because the town can look at water usage profiles and see when people are on leave and stage public safety on properties when people are out.”
“The API economy is a strong message resonating with customers,” Dyer (below, left) states. “SAS can bring external ideas and algorithms into the platform and allow them to be interconnected in a governance model connected to our customer’s business, and this resonates well.”
“This is most prevalent in IOT where some organisations might have 4,500 algorithms while traditional analytics customers might have six algorithms,” he says.
“Now you can potentially have a detailed algorithm pushed to edge appliances making real-time decisions at the edge, and not one or two but thousands.”
Roberts adds, “Organisations are going to drive core competencies off the data and drive back to customers. I’m pretty excited about it. It’s a good place to be.”