The Internet of Things

As is typical in the tech industry, much is built around hype and blowing up things very big before they are ready or even real.  My experience during the dotcom boom and bust was very much around this reality.  We had the creation of Application Service Providers, who provided applications that resided in a data center and not on premise.  It was an early version of what we today call the cloud. It was early and there were a lot of things not ready for prime time. What the dotcom boom did do was lay the infrastructure for today’s world-wide web experiences.  We were laying down fiber all over the planet and coming up with new ways of accessing content on the web via technologies like DSL and the cable modem.  Prior to that we were all dialing in via a modem and waiting for content as it slowly made its way to our PC or laptop.  As Tom Friedman stated in “The World is Flat” we created an infrastructure where everyone could ride for free.  We did have mobile phones that could access the web, but these experience via a Windows Phone or RIM Blackberry would be best stated as painful in a comical sort of way.  However do to the “pain” we suffered we laid the foundation for today’s mobile society and providing our services in the cloud .

The tech industry is an industry that never sleeps, it always moves forward rarely reflective of its past.  Now we are hearing a new buzzword called, “the internet of things”. Companies are lining up and starting to talk about this new movement in the economy.  Noted author and futurist, Jeremy Rifkin,  discusses it prominently  in his recent book, “The Zero Margin Cost Society”.  The concept of IoT ties nicely into another current trend, Big Data.  So what is it?  For a long time now our computing experience has been tied to our devices, the PC, Laptop, Tablet and the Smartphone.  What we are discussing now is all the other devices on the planet that we can build and deploy software on so they can communicate and provide us data.  It can and will be everything from your household appliances and furniture.  If it is man-made it can be tied into the Internet. the most important thing being is we have the ability to connect everything.  And for everything we connect we have but one simple question, “what is it doing”.

If you think about this for a moment you can quickly surmise that every man-made and living thing is a container of information.  The walls of your house have frames built with wood or metal.  They have measurements.   Some use screws some use nails.  What type of nails? What type of screws?  They may have plumbing or electrical wiring.  Are you running a network through the wall? Phone lines? Cable?  If a rat chews through your cable how will you know? Through the magic of software that will all be known.  Through Big Data it will be analyzed.  What is analyzed can be acted upon.  It is pretty powerful stuff. The internet just passed a yottabyte of data, but when you think of the billions of devices the amount of data will grow 2 fold? 10 fold?  We will be know so many things about everything around us in ways we have never known as possible before.  We may even answer the age-old question,”if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around does it make a sound?”

A good example of IoT will be the advent of driver-less cars.  This has been changing for a long time now as the car moves from being a vehicle to a digital platform.  However it is becoming clear that the network will move from fiber to pavement.  Our roads will be a giant network topology, capturing data from everyone and everything that decided to move across the paved network.  If you think about maps in general they are simply network diagrams, you just have to rethink what you know as physical and start thinking of it as digital.  The network will monitor car speeds and keep speeds within legal limits.  No more police officers to stop you for speeding.  No more photo tickets, since none of us will be technically driving the vehicle as it will simply be a programmed and connected platform, part of the great paved network.  Beyond IoT, who knows, maybe we will not even need pavement anymore.

As robotics improves and it makes all these devices mobile, we will be able to collect data from these new robotic devices, like a lawnmower and learn where we are working well and where we are falling short.   It will give us the ability to modify and improve mobile machines in ways that traditionally required us to go to the nearest repair shops and pick up in two weeks.  Machine Learning will take on a whole new meaning in IoT.  It will replace mundane day t day tasks and displace low-end workers from their jobs as they will no longer be needed.  For all the high school kids looking for summer jobs mowing lawns, you will need to find a new source of income (asking mom or dad for money is not allowed).  If all motion devices become connected and are robotic how much data will be collected and acted upon?  The scenarios are to plentiful to consider here, but with little imagination we can all begin to sense the IoT future

In the end the Internet of Things and Big Data are the same thing.  Via IoT we will collect information from every man-made device and every living organism.  The data collected will be sliced and diced and turned into something actionable. We will be able to this with speed and decision-making time will be reduced.  The world will evolve quicker and the benefit to the human race will be greater.  Such power comes with enormous responsibility.  When we have these big shifts it creates new opportunities both for the good seminarian and the common criminal.   With each wave the wave seems to become bigger, leading to bigger shifts in how mankind lives and operates,  Before we had little Tidal waves now we will move to enormous tidal waves.  The wave will either lift us to new highs or crush us with an enormous crash delivering us from earth to a non-existent life.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann May 8, 2015