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

IoT model update from the one I used 4 years back...

Back about four years ago, I used a model to think about machine-to-machine (M2) from a holistic perspective. Today, this would be viewed more through an Internet of Things (IoT) lens. In talking with some others last week, it seemed that the simple progressing from sensors all the way through action is still valid but may need to be expanded a bit.

Internet of things model.png

 

In really starts with the ‘thing’ that has been tagged (and its sensors and controllers). There is also a supporting device management layer that adds security, power management and other fleet management features. I didn't really show that the first time.

 

Data collection continues to have integration capabilities but the analytics layer needs to add more context and pattern recognition than just traditional analytics. There is an automation layer that rides on top that performs a number of the action oriented features.

 

I didn’t really think about the management layer that is inherent in the approach, even though some functions may only be useful for a subset of the environment. A pluggable set of standards is needed to minimize the complexity.

 

The Internet of Things will require a significant degree of autonomous control. It can’t be as needy as the tools we’re using today – crying out for our attention all the time.

 

Half-way through the current wave of technology

I was preparing for HP Discover and it got me thinking about a presentation we pulled together almost 10 years ago (see illustration below - notice it didn't predict the downturn starting in 2008). The presentation did discussed the numerous technological ages in the history of corporate IT, starting with the mainframe, moving to client server, the internet and introduced the concept of a Next Big Thing wave related to computing everywhere. We are now halfway into the latest stage– and it is the second half of a stage where the real value comes to light and the wide-spread deployment takes place.

 

waves of computing.jpg

 

What’s interesting is that this is also the point where the organizations that are not dabbling in the leading edge pop their heads up, look around and wonder how they got there.

 

Everyone is realizing that IT needs to change. Many organizations have a portfolio of solutions that have built up, layer-by-layer from their previous successes, to the point where they're calcified and unable to take on much new. This is usually described as having 80% of the budget locked into keeping the lights on, rather than focused on generating new value for the organization – even though the business may have changed.

 

By now, most organizations have experimented with cloud, big data and automation. We’ve seen the value of automation on IT processes, since that is what enables the kind of productivity improvement we’re experiencing in the cloud computing space. Now it’s time to use those same pattern recognition and analytic techniques on the rest of the business. This is where the abundance of IT capabilities can shine.

 

Unfortunately, it is too easy to think about all this change being relatively new, when it has actually built up over time. We can’t take advantage of it effectively, unless we look at the possibilities in new ways. For example, shifting to view that ‘time to value’ and flexibility as the new measures of performance for IT projects, instead of non-business, commodity measures like system uptime or utilization. That change in perspective is what I'm hoping to discuss in my presentation.

2014 – a year of instability

crystalball.gif2014 will be a year of Instability for most organizations. For the optimists, it will be a year that many of the technologies that entered the business environment, shift to delivering significantly new levels of value. For the pessimist, it will be another year of unwanted change.

 

One of the changes organizations will embrace is the shift from a focus on service delivery (including cloud) as a commodity to a value play. This will move Service Level Agreement metrics from measuring commodity performance (like uptime) to more business-focused and quality measures.

 

Many of the service players will begin to offer solutions higher up the value stack and directly address business processes. SaaS vendors moving to BPO for example, causing them to take on whole new areas of responsibility.

 

The same kinds of shifts will happen within IT support organizations. Workplace services that are currently focused on supporting BYOD will need to embrace Bring Your Own Service – a more environmental view of what is needed to address the business needs of the day. The security and service broker functions will become even more critical for support organizations since much of the work will be provided by others.

 

In 2013, HP talked a lot about the new style of IT. In 2014, a new style of business that is more social, mobile, flexible, data driven, secure and automated will generate greater value levels and allow those who embrace the change to excel. For example, social will be a lever for greater engagement for employees and customers. Mobile will build upon that engagement capability and add in the element of speed, shifting the time to action for organizations. Analytics will move out of the glass house and take advantage of mobile to provide the visibility and efficiency needed and where possible automation will offload well understood tasks and assist in simplifying and eliminating distractions. The race with the machine will be the race to watch in 2014 -- this will be a year of widespread transformation. Defining criteria to evaluate an innovation and its implication will help organizations minimize instability.

 

In 2012 a wide variety of ubiquitous and wearable computing hit the ground (even more in 2013) but in 2014 these will hit the road and be incorporated into more business and personal processes. They will shift from being isolated devices to becoming linked networks of functionality. As the costs and power requirements go down, they will be embedded in more products (and produce, limiting spoilage -- as an example) optimizing results. This will also enable a more software-defined everything view of computers in products. The instabilities this shift implies will be readily apparent in 2014.

 

Another shift will be to a software defined anything approach. The concepts of OpenStack for Cloud OS and OpenFlow for software defined networking will start to permeate higher into the value stack with a more open ‘smarts’ approach to pattern recognition and process optimization during 2014. This more open approach will allow for standardization yet customization enabling new level of business flexibility and applicability. The personalization and custom development for 3D printing... will continue to move into the mainstream.

 

Software in 2014 will incorporate more flexible information sources and analytics, enabling greater levels of automation and systems of action. For the end user we’ll likely see a great deal of interface work and changes as HTML5 integrates more capabilities for voice, video… and organizations begin to capitalize upon these capabilities across devices. A wider variety of spatial (gesture), touch, voice and even mind control interfaces will be incorporated into enterprise software, moving out of the consumer space. Organizations will learn from how the consumer space adopts the functionality of the Xbox One into their interactions. We will move beyond a ‘mobile first’ view for development to mobile is 'the interface' and desktop is a special case – fortunately with HTML5 that should not be that big of an issue.

 

The software portfolio that has been built through the success of all the previous projects will need to be re-assessed in 2014 against these services and the revised needs of the business. Mobile interfaces will allow the enterprise to take advantage of the computer everyone has with them. This environmental perspective will enable the employees to become more engaged with the processes, customers and other employees, empowering them and enabling them to empower others.

 

Organizations will need to assess what is abundant in this world of 2014 and what will still be scarce for them. Those that recognize this distinction will have a significant advantage in planning and removing instability. Everyone can probably recognize that security, privacy and time (attention) will be scarce, but what else can be optimize and used differently to provide advantage.

 

Engaged and motivated employees will still be scarce. I think businesses will need to do more in-house orientation and development enabling a more predictable talent creation pipeline. Although a variety of education techniques can be applied to make this happen, the passive approach that came about during the .com era will no longer be accepted by the businesses or its employees and the new skills and change management required to shift the business will be recognized and addressed in 2014.

 

Organizations that can quickly adjust to the volatility around them will remain stable and in control. Most of the instability can be predicted, although there are some situations that will always surprise us. Being flexible and aware can make those situations turn into an opportunity.

Robotics example for agriculture

robotic farmer.pngHaving spent a great deal of time in my youth sitting on a tractor cultivating corn, I was amused to see this article on CNET: Down on the farm, Lettuce Bot is quietly slaying weeds. It is a great example of looking at the use of technology issues differently.

 

If there is one thing that is laid out in a very organized fashion, it is crops (and lawns). Crops are equally spaced and homogeneous. Pattern recognition techniques should easily be able to identify anomalies and robotically killing the invaders (weeds) can be done in a wide variety of ways other than the use of traditional herbicides.

 

There are also analytical advantages, since many kinds of metrics can be gathered during this sort of field inspection that the farmer can use assess at a later date. The farmer can focus on the irregularities in the field rather than sitting out there driving around. Another interesting possibility is that if chemical tanks don’t need to be driven around, the process could be more energy efficient than traditional techniques – depending on how often the weeding/inspection needs to take place.

 

Many tasks can be reassessed for how to accomplish them using the abundance of computing capabilities available

How does IT need to shift as our workplace infrastructure changes?

Barrier break through.pngDoes IT need to be rethought in the age of mobile devices? As tablets take on more of the businesses heavy lifting, their fundamentally different computing and interface model can enable a more interactive and engaged workforce. It will likely take much more than a thin-client display model to transform today’s business processes into the frictionless, secure, aggregation of services expected in the future. Applications (service aggregations) as well as business processes will be required to change and operate in this social and immersive environment, flexibility is critical.

 

Touch interfaces have a different feel than the traditional interaction. Although the user can tolerate some interactions on a tablet – using your figure to click on small x’s in the upper right hand corner quickly becomes tedious, especially when on the move (in a plane or a train).

 

Location aware, always on (and connected) solutions that are sensor-enabled with access to large compute engines for pattern recognition…  have the potential to provide differentiated business value as well as a more productive and context aware user interface. We have the opportunity to change the way workers and consumers view the enterprise, by improving decision-making and allowing for greater self-service and automation.

 

I’ve seen for myself that when projects have great designers and support from individuals with significant change management skills the impact of projects is accelerated and amplified. The same can be said for architects that have a vision for what’s useful and possible. It is more than just hardware, software or business processes that need to change our perspective of what’s possible. We need to tear down some of the barriers to progress that we’ve put up.

 

In many cases, IT organizations need to lead the enterprise in technology development, deployment and analysis, as a road to greater efficiency and profitability accessing information wherever, whenever and for whatever needs it.

 

There are a number of things organizations can do to prepare:

  • Becoming service-aware – What’s available? How can it be made more flexible? What is the best way to interface with it?
  • Deal with distribution (employees, data, security…) – Even company boundaries are not sacrosanct. Design for flexibility.
  • Upgrading skills – This is a never ending battle, since technology is always changing
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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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