My piece in Harvard Biz Review blaming #370 crash on lack of “Internet of Things” thinking!

Hey, everyone else has weighed in with an explanation on why Flight 370 crashed, so I did, today, with a piece in the Harvard Business Review blog in which I blamed it on lack of “Internet of Things thinking.”

May sound crazy, but I think it’s true, because of two of my “Essential Truths” about the IoT — two things that we can do now but never could before, which open up a huge range of possibilities for change:

  • limitless numbers of devices and people can share the same data on a real-time basis
  • for the first time, we can get real-time data on how devices are actually operating, even conditions deep within the device

In this case, if Malaysia Air had only been willing to pay $10 more per flight, it could have had a wide-ranging flow of real-time data from the plane’s engines. Under regular conditions this data could have allowed the company to tweak the engines’ performance, while also allowing them to do “predictive maintenance,” catching minute problems as they first emerged, in time to make safe, economical repairs rather than waiting until a catastrophic failure.

AND, it also would have allowed them during the crisis two weeks ago to have immediately switched to monitoring the engine data when voice transmissions ended, so they would have known immediately that the plane was still flying, in time to have launched planes to intercept the plane and land it safely.

HOWEVER, what was missing was this “Internet of Things thinking,” so they didn’t think expansively about the value of sharing the data.  They saved $10 per flight, but lost 290 people. Somehow the math doesn’t add up…

In case you missed it, great panel today on the IoT and government

Posted on 19th March 2014 in government, Internet of Things, US government

In case you missed it, old friend Christopher Dorobek put together a great (in all modesty, LOL …) panel today for his “DorobekINSIDER” series on GovLoop about how the Internet of Things will transform government.  I’ll try to summarize it in a later post, but you can listen in here!

#IoT ESSENTIAL TRUTHS: IF REAL-TIME DATA WAS SHARED MH370 MIGHT HAVE BEEN SAVED!

Pardon me for “shouting” in this headline, but I just had a stark realization that if one of my Internet of Things Essential Truths had been practiced by Rolls-Royce and Malaysia Air, Flight 370 might have been saved:

We have to start asking, where are there situations where real-time data from a variety of sources could help coordinate inter-related activities to improve safety & efficiency and reduce costs?

What I realized was that if Malaysia Air and Rolls-Royce and the air traffic controllers had simultaneous access to the real-time data from the engines’ sensors (rather than Rolls-Royce alone having it, simply to measure engine performance), the airline would have realized that the plane was still in flight, and planes could have been scrambled immediately to search for it, rather than waiting days before the data came to light.

That’s a bone-chilling reminder that with the IoT, we must always ask the question:

who else could benefit from having simultaneous access to real-time data?

Wow!

Join me for GovLoop discussion Wednesday about how the IoT will transform government

Posted on 14th March 2014 in government, Homeland Security, Internet of Things

Hi!  I’ll be joining old friend Chris Dorobek for his “Dorobek Live” discussion on GovLoop next Wednesday to talk about how the Internet of Things is changing government.  The discussion will take place from 2-3p ET (Sign-up information here: http://goo.gl/V6BPnW). Before hand, you might want to read the best piece I’ve seen about this transformation, The Coming of Age of the Internet of Things in Government. Be there or be square!

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Can Internet of Things help solve the Malaysia 370 mystery?

Posted on 13th March 2014 in Internet of Things, M2M, transportation

It appears from a Wall St. Journal article  that Malaysia Air 370’s Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines may have had built-in sensors

Rolls-Royce Trent 800 jet engine

that allowed the engines to send real-time operating data to Rolls-Royce for analysis. According to the WSJ, the data may indicate that the plane flew for an additional four hours after its last radio transmissions.

Whether or not this proves to be true, it does give a preview of what life will be like when the IoT is fully functional: real-time data will become a critical tool in transportation management and safety. In this case the data might help locate the wreckage. In others, the fact that it will allow traffic controllers, whether on the ground or in the air, to react to danger in real time, will save lives. 

Seeing’s believing: the mother of all #IoT infographics is here!

Posted on 5th March 2014 in agriculture, design, Internet of Things, M2M, manufacturing, marketing

Like wow!  Trevor Harwood at the go-to IoT site Postscapes has teamed up with Harbor Research to create a “little” infographic (by my calculations it is about 2 miles horizontally by 3 miles vertically!!) that tells all you need to know about the IoT (download here: I wouldn’t attempt to do a screen grab: couldn’t do justice to it!).

I’ve been looking at it for several hours, and still haven’t processed all the information, but I think you’ll find it invaluable to introduce newbies to the IoT and all of its aspects (I was particularly impressed by several of the case studies that I hadn’t read about before).

Download it now, then study it carefully. Nice job!

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Libelium’s Alicia Asín Pérez: crafting an IoT leader from the ground up!

Any time you run into a leading IoT engineer who says she draws inspiration from the early NYC skyscrapers (Why? “..Most of them were built during the Great Depression and make me think that in big crisis like the one we are living there are also the greatest opportunities for creating amazing things.”) you know you’re in for some outside-the-box thinking!

Alicia Asín Pérez of Libelium

That’s the case with Libelium’s Alicia Asín Pérez, who I had a chance to interview just before she was to leave for this year’s Mobile World Congress, where Libelium unveiled its new Smart Water sensors, the latest addition to the eight-year old company’s impressive list of IoT sensors.

What impresses me the most about the company is how Asín and co-founder/CTO David Gascón have pursued their vision of an open-source system (their Waspmote platform “sends any sensors’ data using any communication protocol to any information system so that anyone can play in the IoT”) without compromise from when they started the company.

After attending the Universidad de Zaragoza, the young engineers decided to enter the decidedly un-cool field of hardware, not app design.

They didn’t want to get trapped into serving only one industry vertical (at present they’re serving smart cities, smart water, smart metering, smart environment, security and emergencies, logistics, industrial control, smart agriculture, smart animal farming, home automation, and ehealth.  Any areas they’re not serving?), so they refused to deal with VCs, bootstrapping the company before the days of crowdsourcing. They even appeared on a quiz show for entrepreneurs to get cash, and were prepared to head to Hollywood quiz shows (Asín knows a lot about a lot of subjects, LOL!) if need be.

Libelium is intent about focusing on open source solutions, walking their talk to the point of even using Linux computers.

They also get it about one of my “Essential Truths” of the IoT, that it “democratizes innovation.”  On one hand, Libelium has partnered with major firms such as IBM (with the “Internet Starter Kit”), and, on the other, 30% of its revenues come from its work with the “Maker Movement,” through its “Cooking Hacks” division, which includes:

  • +4000 products for DIY projects
  • Waspmote starter kits
  • Step-by step-tutorials to get started
  • A community forum

Asin sounds like a revolutionary with her call for “democratizing the technology of the Internet of Things,” and speaks proudly of how Libelium quickly created a Radiation Sensor Board used by an ad-hoc network of activists who documented radiation levels after the Fukushima accident. Speaking to Postscapes, she emphasized that while IoT projects by major companies are important, it’s equally important to use the IoT to empower individuals:

When you are in front of such a revolution, you can neglect individuals. It is a big mistake thinking about the IoT players as big companies or just companies. If we look at the general sociopolitical situation, at the citizen movements all across the globe, we see that individuals are just claiming more transparency and not depending on governments and big companies for accessing data: people want Open Data, Open Source, Open Hardware, Open Funding… Because of that, we see projects like Safecast for detecting radiation levels in Fukushima or Air Quality Egg in the Netherlands. People want to do things on their own and are finding support in all the crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and companies backing open hardware that allows them to access inexpensive technology. For example, we just launched a kit to experiment with eHealth and we have already sold more than 1,000 units. People are being more creative and innovative than ever, and everyone needs tools for doing that. Those ‘tools’ are sensors and providing them is our vision.” (my emphasis).

It’s too early in the IoT’s evolution to predict the ultimate winners, but I suspect that Libelium’s passion for open systems, its technical expertise at creating a growing array of sensors, and its ability to partner with both big and small firms will help it prosper over the long haul.