Internet of Things, Big Data Analytics and the connection with Learning and Development (L&D)

If you clicked the link and are reading this, your retina has been scanned; your current mood and brain activity has been recorded and catalogued for today. The insight obtained upon big data analytics indicates a strong inclination towards reading the entire article to check out what Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data really are about and why the analytics really matters to every one of us.

Well, the above is not entirely true. I have no means to do a retina scan and record brain activity of my readers (I am not going to tell you about my mind reading powers just yet…!)

However, considering the pace with which we are connecting devices around us to the Internet or a common network, the scenario described above may not be very far off in the future.

This is, in my simple words, a good description of Internet of Things or (IoT). All around us, we are surrounded by things that we interact with or more specifically use on a daily basis. Right from the morning routine of brushing our teeth till we call it a day after a long tiring work schedule, we are interacting with things. Now, imagine the brush holder where you keep your brush is a smart device which can scan your brush head and determine the amount of wear and tear of the bristles, weigh the tooth paste tube to check if a new one is needed…. you get the drift. Now imagine this holder is connected to a grid – say the Internet and is tracking this data on a daily basis for you and your family. The data is being securely stored in a central database. Now you will ask me what’s the deal with security about the state my tooth brush is in, or how much paste is remaining in my house. The point is… the security is more to do with what happens to this data after it is recorded. Hence, it rests on a secure server and is used for data analytics.

The above scenario is just can be a simple example and with it, I hope to give you an idea of what IoT is and how it generates data. Since this data is generated on a large scale… everyone in a city has this smart toothbrush holder so every day, millions of records are written in the database. Sometimes twice or thrice from the same house (I have a good habit of brushing at least twice a day). Hence the name Big Data

Let’s look at what part analytics plays in the above scenario. Manufacturers of the brush and the paste are already competing against each other. Using modern ERP software, they have tracked their product to the last retail shop where it is sold to the consumer like you and me. They already have data about which area of a particular city or region sells what kind and quality of their product. They however, up till the entry of this IoT thing, did not have access to how it is consumed within a particular house. The sensors will give them this access. Seems scary and privacy and civil rights activists will have a field day opposing this. But looking at the brighter side, it will help save so much money. I know, you are going to ask me how. Here’s one example to explain. Mr. Kumar’s son 8 year old son brushes his teeth daily but is not really careful about cleaning all the nooks and corners of the mouth. As a result, over a period of 3 months, his tooth brush starts showing signs of less wear and tear than others kids his age. Since his mouth remains unclean the brush also attracts microscopic fungi and bacteria which are picked up by the sensor. The analytics on this data sends out an early warning message to Mr. Kumar to check his son’s dental health and also offers a list of nearby dentists to help. If neglected, the tooth decay could post a serious health issue and since an early warning triggered off, expensive dental treatment was avoided. This saved at least 30,000 for Mr. Kumar and the dentist also got benefits since he got a new client and will now advice regular follow up sessions for the enter Kumar family.

Examples like this are just the basics. Complex financial transactions, predictive human behaviour and long term approach to chronic health issues can be dealt with in a better way, ultimately, improving the way humans live their life and go about doing things they do while they are active.

With every month, number of Internet enabled things around us is rising. Smart clothes, smart curtains, smart walls and smart water faucets and smart what not…. all of these when connected to a common grid that we call the Internet are going to generate humongous amounts of data which will need fast processing machines and super computers to analyse and come up with meaningful insights from the same. How to use those insights is up to us. Large IT companies are going full guns blazing on frameworks such as Hadoop, Analytics tools such as Pentaho Analytics and storage platforms like MongoDB, Cassandra etc.

IDC has predicted billions of dollars being spent on the hardware and software required for big data and analysis in this coming 10 years.

IDC identified four other industries expected to generate revenues of more than $10 billion in 2019 — federal and central government, professional services, telecommunications, and retail.

Meanwhile, the industries that experience the fastest revenue growth in big data and business analytics revenue are expected to be utilities, resource industries, healthcare, and banking.


Till now, I feel the Learning & Development (L&D) industry has been a follower. In that, the industry verticals get transformed or start doing something differently and L&D has to follow the trend. This time around, I believe L&D should lead the way and quickly adapt to the use of IoT and Big data in the way training is done in corporate as well as the universities. With a better trained workforce, and tools like big data analytics and predictive forecasting, there will be new leaders in the corporate as well as education world.

Smart classrooms are already available, they use an interactive screen and white board and students or learners have an interactive approach to learning. Couple that with IoT and the results can be phenomenal, disruptive or whatever the word is.

What follows is a hypothetical example that uses all the above – IoT, Big Data, Analytics in the L&D scenario.

TrendSmart Inc. is a mid size organization that sells analysis software to larger financial institutions and analysis firms that publish papers and trends on various industries based on their performance in the stock market.

The product development team at TrendSmart has to undergo a training session to be able to better identify market trends and predict movements of stocks. They need to learn this so as to write their software algorithms and build a better software product.

The classroom is a smart one with connected devices and data capturing sensors. The end of session feedback is audio visual instead of a boring paper based roses and thorns tick list. (Roses and thorns = what worked, what did not work)

The data is later analyzed and the instructor is rated as per the feedback. Which in-turn might trigger a train the trainer session or the instructor if the feedback is below a pre defined threshold

The amount of flip board papers used is tracked and sufficient quantity stocks are replenished as needed.

The post lunch session which is the dreaded sleep zone is monitored by the eye lid movements of the learners and timely coffee or break interventions are introduced to keep the team on their toes and refreshed to gain maximum from the training.

Since some users may have scored lower in the pre tests, those are the ones that the instructor will give more attention to. Thus, personalizing the course for each learner.

All this data is collected, stored and analysed to find out areas that can be improved in the upcoming training sessions. It also is a major contributor to measure the training effectiveness over a specific period.

It will also help do a predictive analysis of areas where the learners might struggle or fail in an actual work environment. Suggesting the instructor to spend additional practice time on those specific areas and thus create a more customized and personalized learning experience for the entire team.

To conclude, IoT, Big Data Analytics and the entire connecting devices in between are enablers that will only help L&D become better, faster and more effective to handle all training requirements that might get thrown at them from any area of any vertical or industry.

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