Lifesaving, simple device in India

Posted on 19th September 2012 in Uncategorized

Now handheld devices are actually saving lives.

CNN carried a fascinating story of a handheld device developed by a team of Indians (the lead, Myshkin Ingawale, was educated at #IoT hotbed MIT.  Watch his TED Talk.) that is quickly and cheaply diagnosing anemia, which kills as many as a million or more children and pregnant women if untreated.

The problem is that the traditional device to diagnose anemia is big and costs more than $10,000, making it impractical for use by village health workers in impoverished Indian villages.

They created a simple device, the ToucHb, that slips over a finger and emits three wavelengths of light. By reading how much of the light goes through the finger, how much scatters and how much is absorbed, the village health worker can determine how much hemoglobin is in the blood, and whether the person is anemic.


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HuffPo: if the Internet of Things is going to be so big, why still a mystery?

Posted on 13th September 2012 in Internet of Things

In a post to my Huffington Post blog today, I speculate on why, if market analyses of the near-term size of the Internet of Things market are so large (and they are!), why is it that the IoT remains so little known in the US?

What’s your theory? I’d love to know!

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Public data at risk & that should concern business

Posted on 13th September 2012 in open data

Both the Census Bureau’s American Community and the 2012 Economic Census are at risk of being cut due to the budget, and it’s time that the business community come to their defense. This blog post makes it abundantly clear how much businesses depend on census data for critical business decisions, and loss of this key data would hurt us all. Rally!

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Open data more valuable than big data for small & medium biz

Posted on 12th September 2012 in open data

Here’s something counterintuitive given all the hoopla about big data: Gartner reports that open data may be more valuable for small and medium-sized businesses than big data is.

The article points out that there are a variety of techniques, especially APIs, that may allow easy sharing of data among employees, supply-chain partners, and customers.

It’s all about collaboration. The article says (my italics):

“There are several solutions that can be relatively easily employed by midsize firms to grow and even monetize their data assets; lightweight open data APIs, social networking, data exchange programs, data market places, and even search engines like Google can be used for sharing data with a wider audience. If done strategically, the information-sharing network effect benefits could pay off in big ways by resulting in improved collaboration with new and existing partners and customers as well as growing data assets that could be used and sold.”

 As I wrote last year in my “Data Liberation Manifesto,” “Make data freely available unless there are substantive security and privacy concerns.” When in doubt, let it out!

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Collaboration key to Internet of Things

Posted on 9th September 2012 in Essential Truths, Internet of Things

In a recent speech to the  2012 Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference, South Africa’s Telekon’s executive for converged business services Steven White said that collaboration between those in the telecom industry will be key to realizing the Internet of Things’ potential.

I couldn’t agree more about the need for collaboration in all sectors that will be transformed by the #IoT, both from a technical and a strategic standpoint — and if I had to guess I’d suspect the latter is going to be the more challenging.

The biggest technical barrier to collaboration is proprietary communications protocols. I’m particularly encouraged by the pioneering work being done by MIT’s Instrumentation Lab’s Cloud Car project, which is in the advanced stages of creating a plug-in device and software (to go in the car’s diagnostic port) that “that would allow hundreds of different cars to aggregate their internet-bound data and send it compressed over a single cellular connection, thus reducing bandwidth costs for all the vehicles participating.” If successful, the system will bring together communications from proprietary standards such as OnStar and Sync, and create the most efficient synthesis of wi-fi and cellular traffic, allowing advances such as cars self-adjusting their speed depending on the flow of surrounding traffic.

Even more impressive, if successful the researchers hope to extend the same logic to home automation (CloudHome) and medicine (CloudMe).

I wonder, however, how much the legacy of competition-at-all-costs’ mentality will slow IoT collaboration on the strategic front?

Within organizations, there’s now the tantalizing opportunity that everyone who needs information in order to do their job more efficiently and/or to make better decisions can share that information on a real-time basis. But will senior managers be willing to give up their historic roles as gatekeepers for that information? I doubt it will be easy to give up the power that comes from that role.

Similarly, it will be possible to share information with your entire supply and distribution chains on a real-time basis, with all of the streamlining that would make possible (think of Wal-Mart’s unique relationship with P & G, only on a non proprietary basis) for mutual benefit. Again, what will it take for companies that have jealously guarded their information to share it?

Hopefully, the benefits to all concerned will trump traditional attitudes, but the attitudinal obstacles to full realization of the Internet of Things demand as much attention as the technical ones.

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Rob van Kranenburg makes the case for Internet of Things

Posted on 7th September 2012 in Internet of Things

In a blog post on Fast Company‘s CoCREATE site titled “The Sensing Planet: why the Internet of Things is the next big thing,” Internet of Things theorist Rob van Kranenburg makes a very compelling case for why the IoT will have such an impact.

He starts with a point that I’d forgotten: that animism, visualizing inanimate objects as having consciousness, goes back to our earliest ancestors, so letting things “talk” to each other via the Internet is just a logical progression.

van Kranenburg goes on to detail the factors that have converged to make science fiction a reality, ending with:

“….. us. Ourselves. We have jumped on the Internet, mobile phones, smartphones, iPads,        social networks like no other technological invention before. We can not deny that as a species the drive is towards more connectivity, more awareness of where people and objects are and an ever-growing synergy between all the different applications and services, none of which can survive on its own any more.”

van Kranenburg cites what he calls my “timely text” on the contrast between US inaction on the IoT and the Chinese’s massive investment in the technology, but concludes that ultimately the human factor will be what drives the IoT’s development:

“Governmental actions aside, the most interesting aspect in the growth of Internet of Things harks back to that base human desire to bring to life the inanimate. With a vibrant open-source DIY community, fueled by tools and software such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Processing, 3D Printing and DIY drones, some of the most innovative connective platforms are coming not from nations or corporations, but enterprising people’s bedrooms. It’s inevitable that with the technological capacity and the curious human nature that my seemingly impossible dream of standing in the middle of a completely interconnected public square is soon to be reality.”


It’s a very inspirational argument for the IoT. Read it!



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I’m back!

Posted on 7th September 2012 in Internet of Things, Uncategorized

My old blog quickly fell by the wayside when I became Twitter user #262 six years ago, and while I made half-hearted efforts to revive it, there was just too much relating to my prior life (which I still sustain as a sideline) as a homeland security strategist for it to work anymore.

Thus I took a deep breath and deep-sixed the entire site (I will eventually add some of my articles and presentations dealing with homeland security to this site, mainly for historical interest), and today I’m starting over.

Bear with me: I still tend to think in 140-characters, but will try to make this a lively site for those who are interested in my new passion — the Internet of Things — the general area of data liberation that I pursued my my book, Data Dynamite: how liberating information will transform our world; and random bits of miscellany, from recipes to biomimicry, that catch my eye.

Glad to be back!

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Internet of Things op-ed in Industry Week

Posted on 7th September 2012 in Internet of Things

I recently published the following op-ed in Industry Week, the bible of manufacturing, taking the U.S. government to task for ignoring the tremendous potential of the Internet of Things, especially in light of the Chinese government’s massive support for the #IoT. Please feel free to pass it on, especially to elected officials:

The Internet of Things: Ignored by the Candidates but Not by China

While our government remains silent, both the EU and China actively fund research projects, deploy IoT technology and create policies to govern it, raising the specter that we will be forced to buy vital technologies from abroad.
Thu, 2012-08-23 16:42
W. David Stephenson, Stephenson Strategies

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been called the second great age of the Internet, although neither President Obama nor the Romney campaign have ever mentioned it. While our government remains silent, both the EU and China actively fund research projects, deploy IoT technology and create policies to govern it, raising the specter that we will be forced to buy vital technologies from abroad.

First, some background, since the business public is still largely unaware of the term Internet of Things, let alone the radical transformation it will bring to every aspect of our lives within this decade.

IoT is the concept that the same Internet that links humans can also link things – smartphones, computers in cars, industrial sensors and household appliances. Some say it became a reality in 2008 – the Internet now links more “things” than people – and IBM estimates that 1 trillion things will be networked by 2015!

That will in turn allow a wide range of innovations:

  • Healthcare will become a continuous patient-doctor dialogue.
  • Transportation will flow smoothly because vehicles sense each other’s presence and adapt accordingly — if Google’s prototypes are brought to market, cars may actually even drive themselves.
  • Machine-to-machine communication will streamline assembly lines and supply chains.

In addition, IoT experts say it is the last, best hope to address massive global problems such as energy needs and global warming.

American firms are pioneering IoT innovations such as IBM’s Smarter Cities program or Vitality, Inc.’s prescription jars that tell your doctor if you took your pills. But they are threatened by state-supported Internet of Things projects underway in the EU and China.

IoT in China

Nowhere is it more of a priority than China, where Premier Wen Jiabao called it an economic development priority in several speeches and in one case offered the formula Internet + Internet of Things = Wisdom of the Earth.

According to consulting firm CCID, the total value of China’s IoT industry last year was nearly $41 billion. CCID reported wide-ranging applications: “intelligent” industry, logistics, transportation, medical treatment, agriculture and environmental protection and the smart grid for electricity. The government routinely includes IoT elements such as sensors in public works projects such as bridges or high-speed rail, so structures will report when they need maintenance.

Making IoT a Priority

It’s time that the Internet of Things becomes an official U.S. economic development priority.

Both candidates can start raising public awareness by adding the IoT to their stump speeches and making campaign stops at IoT leaders such as Johnson Controls in Wisconsin or MIT.

Beyond the rhetorical, the Office of the Chief Technology Officer should convene a public-private conference to begin the overdue work of creating an agenda for effective federal support of the IoT industry. In the wake of the Solyndra loan guarantee the Administration is undoubtedly leery of trying to “pick winners” in the technology field, but the IoT is largely an enabling technology that will underlie a wide range of specific technologies and the basic technology is well proven. What is needed is more a range of demonstration programs – especially in areas such as transportation infrastructure where it would simply be a small incremental cost in projects that are already needed to spur economic development.

Personal Privacy & Security

One government official who is familiar with the IoT is CIA Director Petraeus, who commented about linked devices that will be found in every home, that “household spy devices change our notions of secrecy and prompt a rethink of our notions of identity and secrecy.”  Civil libertarians are rightly concerned there be adequate protections to avoid random snooping.

IoT security will constitute a critical and growing part of the broader concern about cybersecurity: as more and more essential services, such as the transportation network and the power grid, become “smart” and linked, the chances will grow that they may be targeted by hackers and/or foreign saboteurs. Congress’ failure to pass a comprehensive cybersecurity law is even more disappointing when the IoT is factored in.

Development of the Internet of Things is too advanced for government inaction to stop it. What is in question is whether we will buy the technology from abroad or if it will spark entrepreneurial innovation here at home. It’s time that the IoT becomes a household word – and a governmental priority.



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