The Internet of Things – what is it?


There has been a lot of “new” trends in computing of late as we move into hyper drive towards the future.  We have the cloud, which is no longer new as we have a lot of services making there way upstream to the cloud as we leave many traditional desktop services behind.  The mobile universe has matured as we all walk around in a daze glued to our little pocket computers, enjoying a bright sunny day that we feel but hardly notice.  We feed the web a constant barrage of data which in a short amount of time has become big data.  Once we have the data we struggle with finding a way to make that data useful and actionable, which has inspired a ton of analytics software, all displaying a stunning array graphical beauty.  On top of this we have artificial intelligence and robotics seemingly moving in tandem, each will in time collect even more data. But in my mind the one trend I find the most fascinating is the Internet of Thing, IoT for short.  I think in simple terms it means everything else not touched by tech is a repository of data just waiting to be mined, it touches not just the future but the legacy of where have been. But what exactly is it?

When I was with AT&T there was a lot of discussion around machine to machine learning, the idea of two devices communicating with one another and ultimately capturing data which in theory could be analyzed and acted upon.  You could place devices in a Boeing plane that monitors the cabins conditions and transmits that data to a airlines database in the cloud somewhere and that kind of starts us on the path to IoT, but I think it falls a bit short.  I actually prefer Daniel Burrus’ definition he articulated in Wired Magazine in 2014.  Rather than think of M2M we should really view it as sensory data.  Sensors are essentially dumbed down devices that will do only one thing and simply capture data and pass it on to a data repository somewhere.  In my view what the Linux OS does so well, strip it down and let it do just a few simple functions.   You can place these sensors on anything, anywhere, and anytime.

If you think about the world around you everywhere you look you are in actuality staring at data.  Your walls in your house contain data.  The roads that you drive on contain data.  The shower you bathe in contains data.  Your refrigerator, oven stove, etc..every appliance in your house has data just begging to be set free.  Over time these things change, sometimes for the worse. As devices come equipped with sensors there will be a lot of benefits.  As Daniel Burrus pointed out in his article, which was written not long after a bridge collapse in Minnesota, we will be able to put sensors into concrete and anticipate when a  structure may be stressed and a public danger. General Electric will call you before your fridge breaks down.  Your washer is nor working properly and Kenmore knows before you call.  These are all great scenarios and are not that far off in the future.

Bill Ford of Ford Motor company was speaking at a conference in Silicon Valley and said, “The car is no longer a car, it is  a platform”.  If you look under the hood of a new car there is a lot in that engine and is nit just pistons, pipes and filters.  A lot of electronics.  Not long after I read that statement I was visiting with an auto-insurance company in Oregon once and they were talking about the data they can capture from cars.  They wanted to in short to build a system of dynamic insurance, where driver behavior is monitored and rates go up or down depending on performance.  The big unanswered question before they could even contemplate such a measure was “Whose data is it”?  You can hear the scenarios unfold if the data is the insurance companies, both good and bad as your privacy is further invaded and eroded.  Driver-less vehicles may make this all a mute point depending on how quickly they arrive and are adopted

When I think of IoT i start to not think of Big Data, I think of really Big Data, perhaps even uber big.  In IoT has been articulated a lot of the data will sit never to be used.  I met with a AWS rep who was talking about a utility company that was having thermometers in homes send data every 5 minutes.  They were small files 3kb-5kb, but if you add this up into a day and then multiply by ten’s of thousands of customers those kb’s quickly become gb’s.  The data was being collected but at the time not being analyzed. The benefit though long term will be more efficient power usage in every home.  Our homes will be better managed, which for any home owner it is quickly realized that homes are your intro to property management.  This can  and will have a huge positive impact in the environment.  Cleaner air leads to healthier lives.

With all this grandeur there are issues.  If you think about the scenarios I have listed if you agree to these IoT scenarios keep in mind you have just invited a bunch of different companies into your home.  You can love or hate Edward Snowden, but your privacy is being invaded in these IoT scenarios.  You may fear government but how do you feel about private enterprise?  It is not just data but what is captured on video as well.  Products like Xbox have the ability to view how you interact with your television.  The camera on your computer?  With the future moving rapidly forward and yet coming closer to us everyday how do we weigh the benefits versus the negatives?  In the dead of winter if your refrigerator is about to die how much is it worth to know before it gives out and you and your family have to go out tot eat while you wait for the repair man to come?

The IoT revolution is underway and it promises a host of new scenarios which will add a lot of benefits to how we live, work and play.  It will come with its own set up of security and privacy issues, but as is typical in tech we tend to jump over the edge before we see how far the fall may be.  The opportunity, however, is too great for us to pass it up.  We will live in a different world because of IoT, it will be a world for the better.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann Sept 19, 2016

 

 

 

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