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

Is it time for a Chief Automation Officer?

Automation officer.pngOver the last few years, there has been quite a bit of discussion about the race against the machines (or the race with the machines), based on the abundance of computing available. When I think about the IoT and its implications on business, it may be that information is just a side effect of an entirely different corporate strategic effort.

 

Maybe there is a need for a Chief Automation Officer more than a Chief Information Officer going forward?!? Someone who looks at the business implications and opportunities for cognitive computing, sensing, robotics and other automation techniques.

 

Or is automation just assumed to be part of all future strategic planning activities. As I began thinking about it, it’s clear that others have thought about this CAO role as well, although mostly from an IT perspective instead of one based on business need. It could be viewed that this is a role for the CTO or even the enterprise architect.

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).

IoT and IT’s ability to foresee unintended consequences

Internet of things.pngI was recently talking with someone about an Internet of Things study that is coming out and it really made me wonder. HP has been doing work in the IoT for decades and gets relatively little credit for the efforts. In fact where I started work back in the 80s was writing statistical analysis tools for plant floor (SCADA) data collection – essentially the high value, big data space of its time, back when a 1 MIPS minicomputer was a high $$ investment.

 

The issues we deal with today are a far cry from that era, now we’re as likely to analysis data in the field about well head performance or robotics but many of the fundamentals remain the same. I’ve mentioned the issue of passive oversharing in the past, and addressing that issue needs to be at the foundation of today’s IoT efforts as well as value optimization issues.

 

I was in a discussion about vehicle to vehicle communications requirements a few months back and the whole issue of privacy looms much larger than the first thoughts of preventing accidents. I think everyone would agree that putting on the breaks by those vehicles affected is a good idea. Should the stop lights recognize bad behavior and visually send a signal to other drivers? There are a wide range of innovations possible with a network like this.

 

There are also negative possibilities to be considered:

  • Is passing along this driver performance to the police a good idea? What about insurance companies?
  • What about just that fact that your car knows it is speeding, is that something that others should know?
  • Or the information about where you’re driving to, now that your car is sharing this information with other cars and infrastructure (cell phones already do this by the way).
  • What if a driver can ‘socially engineer’ the limits of the system to maximize the performance for them. An example of this might be if you were to push the system so that yellow lights would stay yellow a bit longer because you’re accelerating into the intersection – is that OK?

Some unintended consciences are going to happen. We should be able to see many of them coming, if we think creatively. IT organizations will need to develop their implication assessment skills, for their social as well as business effects. The IT team should have better comprehension of the analysis and data sharing that has happened elsewhere and the implications, regardless of the business or industry and be able to advise accordingly. They need to reach out early and often.

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??

Search
Follow Us
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.
Labels
The opinions expressed above are the personal opinions of the authors, not of HP. By using this site, you accept the Terms of Use and Rules of Participation