Data Dashboards

3 Common Shortcomings with Data Dashboards

Getting started with the Internet of Things can be an intimidating process for many organizations to undertake. As with any new technology, it can be difficult to ascertain how exactly an Internet of Things platform can best serve your needs. Additionally, there are so many options on the market for surface level data gathering that organizations often settle for what appears to be the most expedient option or that with the lowest entry cost. However, these solutions often fail to deliver on expectations.

As powerful a tool as these emergent data gathering systems are, many organizations are still struggling to achieve the full potential of incorporating Internet of Things technology into their daily operations. Not all platforms for the Internet of Things are built equally, and some have significant shortcomings that have hampered growth and slowed organizations from reaching their fullest potential. We’ll discuss some of the common shortcomings present with current Internet of Things platforms, and outline what you should look for to help your organization utilize this technology to its fullest potential.

1. Customizable User Experience

Many current Internet of Things platforms lack the customizability that most organizations require. Because IoT platforms typically gather data from many disparate points, the ability to tailor your dashboard solution to your unique needs is a necessity. One-size-fits-all solutions fail to deliver this flexibility, and can negatively impact the beneficial aspects of utilizing the Internet of Things for your app or organization. Employing a platform that offers a customizable user experience will enable you to take control of what data you receive and tune how you view that data so that it works best for you.

Customizable data dashboards allow you to view only the data relevant to your particular organization and needs. They eliminate the information glut that so often accompanies a one-size-fits-all dashboard design. While many options on the market can deliver data, often these platforms offer no effective means to quickly and accurately render that data into a usable format. Companies then have to spend resources and manpower to sift through data that, with the right solution in place, would have already been presented in a clear format.

The ability to effectively filter the data gathered from your IoT connected devices, and then render it into an accessible format is one of the major shortcomings of current Internet of Things platforms. Dashboard design typically lacks either the ability to place necessary data in one centralized location or fails to effectively filter that data and subsequently present it through analytics or visualization. Sometimes it lacks both of these features, and users are left with an overwhelming amount of data to sift through while toggling back and forth between windows. Data dashboards that are unwieldy, poorly organized, or overly complex lead to frustration and inefficiency. On the other hand, a well-designed dashboard will present usable information in one area, while relying on a simple and intuitive interface that promotes ease of access and productivity.

Customizable options also give data dashboard the flexibility to expand or change with the needs of your organization. In contrast, one-size-fits-all solutions tend to be static, and will eventually require extensive work on the back end to allow the dashboard to keep up with your needs. Data dashboard solutions that provide a customizable user experience offer the ability to rapidly and easily change as the dynamics of your organization’s demands change. This type of future proofing is not possible with a static data dashboard solution and can lead to frustration and serious cost expenses over time.

Having exactly the data you need, when you need it, and how you can best interpret it is one of the benefits of a well-designed and implemented dashboard solution. Avoiding the display of excessive, or unfiltered, data will increase productivity and efficiency. Additionally, having the ability to grow with an organization’s needs enables well designed data dashboard solutions to be a lasting and beneficial addition to many organizations.

2. Real-Time Alerts

Many platforms for the Internet of Things promise “real-time” alerts, but very few actually deliver on this promise. Instead, many organizations find themselves acting on data that is hours, or even days, old. This can lead to costly mistakes, particularly when opportunities for preventative action or maintenance are missed. Depending on the application, real-time alerts can be critical to both the success and safety of your employees.

For example, take an organization that offers large-scale trucking and delivery services across a broad area. In your data center, you receive information regarding traffic, weather, and road conditions along the routes for your drivers. If the data you are basing your decisions on is hours, or even days old, you may fail to see an accident along the route, causing your driver to be stuck in traffic until the accident is cleared. Or consider that weather can change in an instant, and you need to be sure that the delivery routes of your drivers are safe. If your weather data is hours old, you aren’t making informed decisions, which can ultimately affect their safety.

Alternatively, consider these same scenarios, but rather than information that is hours old you have real-time data pouring into your data center. With the correct alerting systems in place, you will be notified of an accident along your drivers’ route(s) within minutes of it happening. This gives you time to reroute the driver(s), guaranteeing they won’t be stuck in the ensuing traffic. Real-time weather updates would alert you to changing or potentially dangerous road conditions as they occur, also giving you time to reroute your driver(s) and ensure their safety.

Obviously, real-time alerts would be a boon to organizations across nearly all industries. For some, it would be more necessary than others.  Real-time alerts in critical infrastructure industries, such as water and power delivery, or weather mapping, are vital. Outdated information in these industries impact not just profit margins but ultimately affect people’s lives.

Just as important as receiving this information in real-time, is having a data dashboard capable of delivering this information in a usable and understandable format. Many data dashboards fail to provide continuity from receiving information and conveying it to the end user in a centralized location. In a sense, this failure comes down to one of design. Data dashboards that fail to put critical information on a single point fail to render that data legible in a timely manner. Dashboards that require the user to bounce between multiple screens to receive alerts add a potential delay to when that data can be seen and acted upon. Some well-designed data-dashboard solutions have the capacity to push critical notifications to admin users remotely, via email or text message. Combined with real-time data, this remote notification ability allows the administrator to be assured that once a critical data threshold is triggered, they will be notified and can act immediately, regardless of where they may be.

3. Simple Sensor Plug-ins

Let’s say you have a customizable, well designed data dashboard that receives real-time alerts in a central location. Without the capability to integrate simple sensor plug-ins, your dashboard will still fail to provide actionable data. The ability to receive data from simple sensor plug-ins is integral to cohesively incorporating IoT technology into your organization.

The most important aspect of simple sensor plug-ins is that they offer a quick means to expand your IoT network. Sensors enable you to gather data from locations and equipment that would not otherwise be connected on an IoT network. Because a sensor can be attached to a variety of different equipment or locations, sensors allow you to tailor the data sets you gather to your specific needs. This, in turn, leads to more actionable data for you because it presents you with the critical data that you need to track for your organization to run smoothly.

Returning to the example of the trucking company, sensors would allow you to track your trucks in real-time. Combining this information with data about weather, current road and traffic conditions, you could make accurate predictions about delivery times to your customers. But sensor plug-ins have a variety of different applications. In the food service industry, sensors can gather information about how well your oven or cooktops are working, the speed at which foods are being prepared, the ambient temperature in your restaurant, or whether loading docks, staff doors, or lights are left open or on. This information can then be used to determine if your operations are running at peak efficiency, and give you targeted methods for increasing efficiency.

Sensor plug-ins aren’t just about placing a physical sensor throughout your network of operations. Rather, simple sensor plug-ins are a comprehensive data gathering system that includes how that data is displayed on your data dashboard. Here is where many Internet of Things platforms fall short. While they have no shortage of data being gathered, there is often no simple and intuitive way for the user to access that data through their data center. A simple sensor plug-in allows the user to add the information they need to their dashboard. This information is then accessible at all times from a central location.

Typically, poor dashboard design requires adding new sensor data through the development of a custom application program interface (API), which requires time, money, and coding experience. Additionally, once that API is created, users will generally have to juggle different windows to access that data. A well-designed data dashboard gives the user a robust set of tools that enable them to add data from relevant sensors or remove data from sensors they no longer need to track.

We need flexibility and adaptability

Each of these three examples of common shortcomings in data dashboards; a lack of customizability, the failure to provide real-time alerts, and the inability to add simple sensor plug-ins, highlight the inflexibility common in many data dashboards. The beauty, and appeal, of data dashboards as a platform for Internet of Things applications is that they are inherently flexible and adaptable to different industries and environments. The intention behind an Internet of Things platform is to gather data across a broad network of sometimes disparate objects or entities. This data is ideally gathered in real-time and gives the user the ability to quickly react to changing circumstances within their network. Reducing the time between when information is gathered and action is taken is where the real strength of an Internet of Things platform lies.

However, many current Internet of Things platforms fail to deliver on these beneficial aspects.  They hinder the organization using them by not presenting data in a useable manner that can be acted upon. They fail to rapidly filter and deliver actionable data to the end user. They struggle to incorporate new sources of information into existing infrastructure.  And they make it difficult for users to customize their system for the changing needs of their organization.

Getting started with the Internet of Things can be a daunting process for many organizations. They struggle to see how they can make a one-size-fits-all data dashboard solution fit with their unique situation or needs. Often, organizations settle for what a data dashboard can do, rather than seeking out an option that allows them to tailor a data dashboard for what they need it to do. This, ultimately, is the main shortcoming of many data dashboard solutions. They fail to provide a robust and flexible Internet of Things platform for each unique industry or application.  In doing so, they fail to capitalize on the full promise of the power that an Internet of Things platform can provide.

The reality is, one-size-fits-all solutions cannot provide the same level of benefit that a customized, flexible IoT platform can. You shouldn’t have to make the system work.  Rather, the system should work for you. It should be tailored to your specific needs and be able to adapt and change as those needs change.

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