At Quansett Nurseries in Dartmouth, sensors are used in the greenhouses where they grow micro-greens and in the propane tanks. According to owner Fred Dabney, he assumed that the drought hitting the region meant that the two water wells on his site were running low, and he was cutting back on the amount of watering the nursery was doing. However, sensors installed in the wells found that there was plenty of water in both, enabling him to continue to do the watering he needed.
Rezendes said other pilot sites are getting similar results, and the hope is that the benefits can extend beyond the individual sites. Water data collected by multiple farms can be combined to give a clearer picture of the health of the environment, and the data collected from fishing boats can help with monitoring fishing stocks and water quality. In addition, IoT products developed for one business can be used for others, Dell's Shepherd said.
"It's definitely a journey," he said, adding that he hopes to reach "an inflection point, where you can sell this as a service."
The INEX lab—currently funded through its sponsors—is still in its infancy, having opened a year ago. The goal is to create a situation where not only is the lab making money, but so are the IoT companies it works with and the growing number of small and midsize enterprises that are using the technologies.
"Everything we do has to be profitable, and it has to be sustainable," he said.
IDC analysts in June forecast that organizations in the United States would invest more than $232 billion in IoT hardware, software, service and connectivity this year, and that the spending will grow to more than $357 billion in 2019. Most of the industry focus will come from manufacturing, transportation and smart buildings, they said.
Bob O'Donnell, principal analyst with TECHnalysis Research, said that SMBs could be a fertile ground for IoT technologies.
"Most of the value of IoT is very particular," O'Donnell said. "Most of that tends to happen in small and midsize businesses or in small departments of larger businesses."
Rezendes said SMBs live in a world where there isn't enough money, people or instruments to do what they need, and that "one bad day can ruin a week, a month, a year." Giving them access to IoT technology that is affordable and doesn't require more people can enable these organizations to better guard against that one bad day.
O'Donnell said he likes the direction INEX is going, adding that having partners like Dell, Intel and GE are important. Smaller businesses and systems integrators tend to be less trusting than enterprises because they can't afford to put money into something that's unproven, he said. Having Dell, Intel and others behind it will smooth the path with SMBs, he said. At the same time, partnerships with INEX and others are a key part of Dell's strategy to expand in the IoT, an effort Shepherd and others laid out earlier this year.