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

A little bit of the Internet of Things

invention.pngThe Internet of Things doesn’t have to be only about new things, it can also be about adding automation capabilities to existing devices. Makers have been playing with this for a while, but littleBits electronics is the first set of components I’ve seen that addresses both the consumer and education markets in such a broad fashion.

 

It reminded me of those 101 electronic projects kits that were around when I was growing up. I’ve never touched this product, but it does show how wide the exposure is likely to be, in a relatively short time. It will be interesting to see what kinds of innovative solutions people will generate with a modular approach like this that hides some of the more difficult ‘plumbing’ issues.

IoT standards war begins

tug of war.pngI seem to have done quite a number of blog posts in the last month related to the Internet of Things. I just noticed that there have been numerous announcements about standards efforts. This may have spurred me on. 

 

There are a number of them, but the three I’ve seen the most about are:

  • AllSeen Alliance that supports the open source project AllJoyn that provides “a universal software framework and core set of system services that enable interoperability among connected products and software applications across manufacturers to create dynamic proximal networks.”
  • The Open Interconnect Consortium with “the goal of defining the connectivity requirements and ensuring interoperability of the billions of devices that will make up the emerging Internet of Things. “
  • And Google (not to be left out) has defined Thread. Its goal is: “To create the very best way to connect and control products in the home. “ These devices all run over IEEE 802.15.4.

The IEEE has its own set of IoT standards efforts, but those haven’t been getting the press as the recently announced ones above.

 

It is clear that IoT needs standards, but if it is too fragmented there will be no standard at all.

 

Hopefully this will shake out soon, since standards will help make the services and the software needed that actually provide the value for the end consumer.

 

Where did the IoT come from?

I was talking with some folks about the Internet of Things the other day and they showed me some analysis that made it look like it was relatively recent.

 

where did the IoT come from.jpg

 

My view is that its foundations go back a long way. I worked on (SCADA) Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems back in the 80s, which were gathering data off the factory floor, analyzing it and performing predictive analytics, even way back then.


In the 70s, passive RFID came into being and one of the first places it was used was tracking cows for the department of agriculture to ensure they were given the right dosage of medicine and hormones – since cows could talk for themselves.

 

In the late 70s and early 80s barcodes become widely used to identify objects, allowing greater tracking of manufacturing lines as well as consumers in stores.

 

In the 90s, higher speed and greater range allowed for toll tags to be placed on cars, allowing for greater ease of identification but still very little use of sensors to collect additional information.

 

At the turn of the century, the military and Walmart required the use of RFID to track products and that caused significant increase in their adoption. About the same time, low powered sensing capabilities were developed since RFID only provided identification and the scanner provided location, people began to look at other information that could be collected like temperature, humidity as well as ways to gather information remotely like smart metering in the utilities space (although even that started much earlier).

 

Most technology adoption follows an S curve for investment and value generation. We’re just now entering the steep part of the S curve where the real business models and excitement is generated. It is not really all that new it is just that the capabilities have caught up with demand and that is making us think about everything differently (and proactively).

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.

Why is the service research agenda important?

decisions.pngI continue to think about the characteristics that will make up jobs of the future and the kind of services research the NSF needs to define – and why??

 

During our discussions last week, we talked about measures of quality and risk for services, but primarily from the service provider and sometimes from the service consumer’s perspective. What about for an outside entity, like the government? They have expectations of services as well. If the government doesn’t define and encourage new jobs for its constituents, the tax base erodes and power is lost. If enough power is lost than a revolution takes place by people who will redefine the power base and power structure.

 

That is why the service research agenda is so fundamentally important. As the economy moves to be ever more service-oriented, we need to understand and shape what will be needed for stability. Not just of the services themselves but for the ecosystem that the services depend upon.

 

The context recognition that is the foundation for automation of knowledge work actually requires stability to function. If the system is chaotic, context becomes very rare. Having a viable research agenda is not nearly as altruistic as it first seems.

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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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