The Internet of Things (IoT)—loosely defined as a network of Internet-connected devices that talk to one another and that each produce their own data streams—is reshaping the world in which we live. According to researchers at Stanford, these devices are “…in engines, monitoring combustion and performance. They are in our shoes and on our wrists, helping us exercise enough and measuring our sleep. They are in our phones, our homes, hospitals, offices, ovens, planes, trains, and automobiles.” In casinos, there are already hundreds of devices and systems that stream their own data sets, and as gaming continues to mature, every action players take both inside and outside the property will create its own dataset in real-time. As casinos become smarter, they will begin to utilize all these disparate data sets intelligently, giving rise to the smart casino. To explore the impacts of the smart world on the IoT, we highlight five key points.
Everything is smart, and smart is everything
The network of connected things is proliferating at a rapid pace, what with our smart homes and hotels that boast automated HVAC, lighting, security and media systems and our self-driving smart cars. Smartphones and watches are our preferred accessory for on-the-go connectivity, and soon, wearable computers will be woven into the very fabric of our clothing.
In addition to keeping people virtually connected to one other, the smartphone’s mobility, ease of use, connectivity and near ubiquity have made it a natural interface for consumers to interact with the IoT. Always connected to the Internet, smartphones have rapidly become a primary mode of communication, employing messaging and email in addition to voice. Smart properties that leverage the power of mobile will make it easy for a player to email a chatbot to reserve a hotel room, text their host to receive the latest offers, or track players’ movement using GPS to know when they’re leaving and to retrieve their cars from valet before they even step foot outside. While gambling, players can use the same mobile technology hotel to check on their security systems at home, or to continue playing their favorite games on their mobile devices on the way home, maybe while sitting in their self-driving cars.
Real-time all the time
In order for IoT to work effectively, it must be real-time. No one wants a security system that delays alerting law enforcement when it is triggered. Or a hotel key card that doesn’t work immediately after being activated. Or a slot machine that takes forever to pay out a jackpot. With everything moving toward real-time, businesses that want to survive in the hyperconnected world must prepare their systems to handle all of today’s data needs in real time, and deliver it in a useful form to decision makers so they may enable the operational tools to make the best decisions for the businesses in real time.
Software as music: an analogy
Software is the true hero in the rapidly unfolding tale of IoT and its impending ubiquity. To understand how software enables innovation, compare it to music: by considering the difference in innovation around the piano versus music. Italian Bartolomeo Cristofori of Italy is credited as the inventor of the modern piano. The three surviving Cristofori pianos date back to the 1720s, yet a comparison of those pianos to any found in a Google image search for “piano” conducted right now yields a device similar in terms of form, design and function. Meanwhile music—like software—transforms constantly. New genres and sounds become popular for a season, and artists and bands that were once popular fade to obscurity all the time. Even the old methods of distributing and consuming music have changed: instead of CDs most music fans now stream most of their music.
To sum it up, pianos are the devices while music is the software that makes them smart. Like software, music and musical trends shift almost every Tuesday (Spotify’s Discover Weekly, anyone?). Software is by nature dynamic, introducing new functionality quickly and expediting changes in how we interact with the devices that comprise things the IoT. Software’s dynamism is what will drive the growth of IoT.
Internet of Systems (IoS)
Finally, it turns out this IoT is more accurately a network of connected computer systems, or an Internet of Systems (IoS). These are the networks of computers powering the software (see music analogy above) that allows connected devices and machines to communicate and output usable data. Building an ecosystem that guarantees seamless interoperability among the Things is the true challenge of IoT, and solving this inherent challenge using powerful scalable software is the biggest hurdle for businesses looking to cash in on the value of IoT.
So what does this mean for casinos and the gaming industry at large? The systems they rely on to run their business are proliferating, and with it, the valuable data that each system outputs. Powerful software that unites the systems and provides operators access to the data to inform their day-to-day operational decisions is required. Building software to span systems is not the domain of most casino operators; so to prepare for the inevitable IoT, casinos must partner with a technology solution provider that can devise a strategy to ensure their systems speak to one another in a language they understand.
This column was originally published on August 3, 2016 in Yogonet International and is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.