The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Preventing the IoT from being the Oort cloud of the enterprise

riding comet.pngLast month, IEEE Spectrum had an article on how Most Technologists Upbeat About Future Internet of Things and I am optimistic as well --do you really think being down about it will prevent it from happening? I mentioned that ubiquitous power is a prerequisite for the IoT to really take off, at least for some applications.

 

On the same day I gave an IoT intro presentation I was in an exchange with CIOs about rogue clouds, in the process I made a joke pointing out that rogue clouds are the Oort cloud of IT - an area we don’t pay any attention to until something is about to impact our business.

 

There are a number of challenges for technologist to overcome. For every positive aspect, there is a negative trap to fall into and be prevented or at least understood.

 

Challenge

Positive

Negative

Privacy/Security

A view into what is actually going on

Passive oversharing

Identity

Knowing what is what

Device ‘identity’ mistaken for true identity- people become a network address

Efficiency

Speed

Unemployment

Decisions

Automation takes latency out

Loss of freedom and understanding, if automation becomes just another legacy system

Culture

Gamification

Big Brother and data bias

 

What are some of the other issues that have both positive and negative dimensions??

Is an Agile Architecture in your future?

agile architecture.pngA few weeks back I did a post on agile development and that got me thinking about the future of architecture and the need for agile architecture.

 

The same pressures of shifting needs are present at the macro level and should affect the creation and use of architecture work products – although since it is architecture it will be a bit different than agile development.

 

Some of the same principles apply:

  •          People – Architecture lives at the intersection of business and technology. People are at the focus of that intersection, not technology. Architectural efforts should focus on the effect upon the people involved. What needs to happen? How will it be measured? These factors can be used to make course corrections along the way – once you realize that an architecture is never finished. If it doesn’t deliver as expected, change it. Make the whole activity transparent, so that people can buy in, instead of throw stones.
  •          Continuous change – When you begin to think of the business as dynamic and not static, the relationship with the real world becomes clear. In nature those species that are flexible and adjust to meet the needs of the environment can thrive – those that can’t adjust die off.
    Architectures need to have standards, but it also needs to understand where compromises can be made. When talking with CIOs the other day, it became clear that ignoring Shadow IT efforts doesn’t mean you will never need to support them. It is better to understand and facilitate their effective use (through architecture), rather than try and stand in the way.
    In a similar way, the link between the agile projects and the overall architecture need to be recursive. Building upon the understanding that develops. The architecture does not stand alone.
    Architecture development can also have short sprints of understanding, documenting and standardizing the technical innovations that take place, while minimizing technical debt.
  •          Focus on business goal based deliverables – Over the years, I’ve seen too many architectural efforts end up as shelf-ware. In the case of architecture, just-in-time is probably the most effective and accurate approach.
    If the architecture work products can be automated or at least integrated with the tooling used in the enterprise, it will be more accurate and useful. The concept of machine and human readable work products should be part of any agile architecture approach.
    From a goal-based perspective, the architecture needs to understand at a fundamental level what is scarce for the organization and what is abundant and then maximize the value generated from what is scarce – or at least unique to the organization.
  •          Good enough – Don’t let the perfect architecture stand in the way of one that is good enough for today. All too often I’ve seen architecture analysis go down to 2 or 3 levels of detail. Then people say “if 2 is good, let’s go to 5 levels of depth.” Unfortunately, with each level of detail the cost to develop and maintain goes up by an order of magnitude – know when to stop. I’ve never seen a single instance of where these highly detailed architecture definitions where maintained more than 2 or 3 years.
    The goal should be functional use, not a focus on perfection. Architecting the simplest solution what works today is generally best. If you architect the solution for something that will be needed 5 years out, either the underlying business need or the technical capabilities will change before it will actually be used.

None of this is really revolutionary. Good architects have been taking approaches like this for years. It is just easy to interpret some of the architecture process materials from an ivory tower perspective.

Facilitating a session on the Next Generation CIO

CIO.pngThis past week, I facilitated a session at a CIO conference in LA. The focus of the session I facilitate was The Next Generation CIO. Before we got started I had a brief introduction about the changes taking place from my view as a chief technologist perspective.  Here is a summary of my kick-off comments:

 

It seems today that you can’t pick up an IT magazine or listen to a conference keynote without someone lamenting the state of the relationship between the CIO and the business or IT’s capabilities to generate new value for corporations.

Let’s face it things have changed in recent years. For the past few decades we've been successful deploying and maintaining the systems of record that have been the backbone of decision-making for organizations. We’ve built up layer upon layer of successful projects to the point where we’re calcified by our own success. Unfortunately this means that it is common to hear people talk about having 80% of their budget consumed before the year even starts (just keeping the lights on) with little to nothing left over to add new business value. It may be as important what we stop doing as what we can start.

 

Having stated that we’ve had all this success, it is good to recognize that almost all the solutions in production today were built with a scarcity assumption. There was never enough data, storage, network or computing capacity.

In many cases, those limitations have been overcome and we live in a world of abundant IT capabilities. We now can take that abundance of data and computing capacity and use analytic techniques to perform complex tasks like context recognition and sentiment analysis – tasks that just a few years ago were the domain of human knowledge workers. We can now begin to recognize ‘normal’ situations and automate them, freeing up people to focus on the anomalies and turn them into opportunities.

 

 

Infrastructure as a Service is an example of a business process we're all familiar with. At its core it is the business process of instantiation and monitoring of virtual machines. Today, it has been automated to a large extent. What we can do today is just the tip of the iceberg of change headed our way as even greater IT capabilities allow us to take these techniques and apply them throughout the business. Instead of automating VM instantiation, we should be able to automate hiring personnel or even most of the middle management role in some organizations.

 

This abundance perspective can fundamentally shift how value is generated and the role of IT within organizations. If we don’t understand and capitalize on these technology shifts to address the business shifts underway, others will come in and eat our lunch.

 

With this as a starting point, we had a very active discussion covering a wide range of topics some of which were:

  •          Can is really be called Shadow IT if the CIO helps the business by applying their expertise to help steer, rather than running alongside and trying to slow it down?
  •          What can we do to help our people transition from traditional IT to a newer more flexible and business centric approach? Unfortunately, not all of them will be able to make the transition.
  •          What do CIOs need to do to sharpen the sword, for themselves and their people? One of the key points of this discussion was spending time with the business. Live it.
  •          Don’t strive for perfection – be flexible and enable the business to adjust as needed.

I had to draw the session to a close when time ran out but afterward there were a number of clusters that were still talking – and that discussion was likely more important than the discussion of the bigger group.

Is the IoT going to be under the control of the CIO?

Internet of things.png

As we shift from the internet of people (moving beyond the smartphone era) to the Internet of Things (IoT) some of our assumptions for the IT organization and its value may no longer be valid. According to IDC, the IoT will become so prevalent that by 2020 that more than 212 billion devices around the world will be connected. That’s the equivalent of 27 devices per person on earth.

 

There are a few drivers for this increase in adoption. Those are advances in:

  • Sensing capabilities – allowing broader and deeper understanding
  • Power management and consumption – enabling devices that are smaller, last longer and are more autonomous
  • Networking – permitting machine to machine and greater process collaboration

There are actually predictable changes. The three exponential laws that enable the shift in value are:

This shift is already happening in the consumer space, but the question remains “What will the CIO’s role be,” when it happens in industry? Many CIOs spend all their time focused on systems of record, those systems that track all the transactions of a business. IoT implementations are in a different domain all together.

 

The primary consumers of these implementations may be different as well. These are the sources of the abundance of data I’ve mentioned earlier. The IT organization should have the skills to understand what the implications of:

  • Transporting all that data and the interconnection required
  • Storing the information for later use
  • Analyzing the data to actually generate value
  • Automating the response so that people don’t become overwhelmed – systems of action

But the big question for most will be if they willing to invest now so they can have the influence and impact when it is needed. It’s not a foregone conclusion.

Will the Internet of Things lead to passive oversharing?

 

security compromize.pngLast week there was a twitterChat by CIO magazine and the Enterprise CIO forum on ‘the Internet of Things and the effect on the CIO’. During this discussion someone asked “Are there security issues (particularly for the consumer)?” Everyone can probably agree that there are significant concerns that everyone needs to be aware as they strap on more and more devices.

 

One of these concerns relates to a story from a few years back. Then, there was quite a bit of discussion about Super Cookies. This techniques uniquely identified computers by their software versions, installed software… the kind of thing that can be gathered via JavaScript. Nothing had to be stored on the computer itself, like a normal cookie.

 

A similar technique can be applied to uniquely identify a consumer. What devices are they carrying…? Essentially, tracking people by what emissions they are emanating or consuming. Like the Super Cookie, this technique can track and record user behavior across multiple sites. Devices like cell phones are always transmitting "here I am" infromation. BlueTooth and WiFi can also be set to respond to external emissions.

 

Once you can track individual’s movement and interests, you can use that to predict future behavior and act upon it – much like what was demonstrated in the site pleaserobme.com. This site used individual’s social site usage to understand when they were away from home -- except in this case it is passive oversharing by our IoT devices that is the concern. Right now people view this as just a retail experience enabler so they are not freaking out.

 

But this passive surveillance is one area that will likely be scrutinized very closely in the coming years. Those who create devices need to be very aware of what is shared and utilize as much of the security capabilities that are available to keep passive sharing to a minimum.

 

It is not just about recognizing people who come into a retail area. For those who own devices, we need to be aware of what they emit, when and what controls are available to limit them. If it is possible to drive down a street and know which houses are occupied and which are not just by their IoT emissions, there are definitely people who will take advantage.

 

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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