How To Make Sense Of Sensor Data

May 18, 2016, 2:01 AM UTC

Companies have access to a huge trove of new data as devices like thermostats and automobiles are increasingly outfitted with sensors and connected online.

But just having a bunch of data isn’t helpful if the organization collecting it doesn’t know what to do with it.

During Fortune’s Brainstorm E conference held in Carlsbad, Calif. on Tuesday, a panel of data experts and technologists discussed some innovative ways some organizations are using the data they collect from sensors. Their stories highlight the big possibilities for the emerging technology.

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Davida Herzl, the co-founder and CEO of sensor network company Aclima, said her company has teamed up with Google (GOOG) to track air pollution throughout cities by outfitting Google’s vehicles with some of Aclima’s sensors that track air quality. Although the Environmental Protection Agency does a good job tracking a city’s overall air quality, the use of sensors allows for organizations to find specific city locations where air quality may be bad, Herzl explained.

With the help of automobiles coupled with environmental sensors, Herzl said that her team was able to find areas in cities with high pollution. With this information, the team could discover where there are high rates of asthma in certain areas of a city. The data accumulated from the sensors coupled with the EPA’s current methods of determining air quality provide a more detailed picture about a town’s air quality.

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Sheeraz Daniel Haji, a managing partner of zipdragon ventures, said that although companies like health tracker maker Fitbit have popularized the idea of sensor technology for consumers, sensors are not as prevalent for in the business and industrial world. However, there are now startups working on more enterprise-focused sensor technology. He noted one company that is creating a “Fitbit for pumps” so that companies can better monitor the industrial pumps in their plants and learn when a pump is about to fail before it actually does.

The idea is to get “inspiration from the consumer side and take it to industry,” said Haji.

Update – Story clarified to emphasize that the sensors track air pollution.

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