It was inevitable that SAS would unveil an Internet of Things (IoT) analytics suite at SAS Global Forum. After all, everyone has been hearing about the IoT for the past 12 months, and SAS was always likely to capitalise on the hype.
But what was surprising was how soon SAS decided to launch the solution. CEO and founder Jim Goodnight (pictured) told The Wall Street Journal's CIO Journal just last month that SAS "doesn't have any major IoT customers" and that he "hasn't seen a good example of the IoT yet".
It was made clear during a media day before the launch that the new Analytics for IoT suite is a combination of existing SAS products, such as the event stream processing engine, visual analytics and visual statistics.
Many other technology companies have re-badged products as 'cloud' or 'big data', and SAS is doing the same here with the IoT. The only difference is that the CEO apparently isn't sold on it himself.
V3 asked Marcia Walker, principal consultant in energy and marketing at SAS, whether Goodnight had changed his opinion on the IoT in the past month.
"It's something you'd have to ask him but I think it's a fairer question to ask if that was taken out of context. I don't know what happened there. We absolutely have IoT customers. We've had them for a very long time," she said.
So V3 asked Goodnight directly about this in an interview at SAS Global Forum. "Well it's because I wasn't aware of any at the time. It never entered my mind," he responded.
The confusion may lie with the definition of the IoT. Data being gathered from sensors doesn't necessarily make it an IoT application, and perhaps Goodnight, who let's not forget is more clued up about all this than most, believes that there is far more to the IoT than current use cases represent.
V3 sister title Computing's research has found that the majority of IT decision makers don't expect a significant impact on their organisation from the IoT for three to five years. Companies already involved in the IoT use it primarily for tracking or real-time reaction to events. Long-term analysis of the data has yet to be planned in any depth.
The IoT is likely to come to the fore when cognitive computing (including machine learning that SAS is working on with its Customer Intelligence 360 tool), neural networks and robotics mature.
SAS CIO Keith Collins suggested that Goodnight's statement was taken out of context. Sceptics say that sensors don't equate to the IoT, but some SAS customers use an increasing number of sensors which, coupled with trying to answer questions in real time, counts as true IoT.
"We've been working with trucking firms for years doing predictive asset maintenance, but if you look at them now they're using two or three times the number of sensors they did a few years ago," he said.
Collins runs a CIO advisory board, and three of the 13 CIOs are working with wearables.
"One was for an insurance policy, one was for a health employee incentive and the other was for a pharmaceutical firm for clinical trials. The first problem they're going to solve is fraud," he said.
Collins claimed that IT departments will be caught off guard by the rapid arrival of the IoT. "I don't believe IT recognises how fast it is going to come to them," he said.
He may be right, but Goodnight's comment, coupled with the fact that no SAS customers mentioned Analytics for IoT during interviews at the event, shows that it is still early days in the IoT space.
It isn't just that customers have yet to jump on board when it comes to the IoT, but that the technologies needed to truly benefit from it are immature.
Interested in the IoT? Come to V3 sister site Computing's inaugural Internet of Things Business Summit on 12 May in London. It's free for end users.
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