IoT: What Can You Do That You Couldn’t? Heavy Construction

Not sure why, but I’m particularly fascinated by how the IoT can transform parts of the economy that have been around for more than 100 years, such as the way the Union Pacific uses it to reduce derailments — and worse.

One of those tradition-bound industries where the IoT Essential TruthWhat Can You Do Now That You Couldn’t Do Before” is starting to revolutionize both daily practices and strategy is heavy construction, both for buildings and public works.

First of all, heavy construction is inherently dangerous, so anything that can be done to manage that danger is beneficial.

Lots of very heavy machinery; many people, frequently on foot; almost impossible to coordinate all of them in the past, especially as vehicles enter and leave the site.  According to OSHA, in the US alone, 796, or 20.3% of all workers killed on the job in 2003 were killed on construction sites, primarily through falls, struck by objects, electrocution or “caught-in-between.” Of those, lack of coordination probably resulted in most of the struck by objects and “caught-in-between” deaths.

One of the most exciting developments in that regard is SAP’s demonstration program with SK Solutions, which makes anti-collision software, on a construction site in Dubai. They are capitalizing on new construction cranes and construction vehicle  that have sensors built in so their real-time location can be determined instantly. SAP and SK Solutions combine sensor-based data – such as 3-D motion control, location, load weight, equipment usage and wind speed – to avoid collisions with trucks  to enhance worker safety, improve productivity and reduce costs. The site and project managers monitor the equipment via a dashboard.

Less dramatic than collision avoidance is the way that construction companies are using real-time data from the equipment to maximize operating efficiency and reduce maintenance costs through innovations such as “predictive maintenance.”  As my Boston IoT MeetUp co-director Chris Rezendes of INEX Advisors discussed at the recent Association of Equipment Management Professionals Asset Management Symposium, “instrumentation of assets” through digital plans and models, sensors, data and embedded communication devices in buildings and bridges is becoming a key differentiator in the industry. According to Rezendes:

““Everybody in tech wants to instrument your assets, inventories, operations, people and processes… They are looking at instrumenting all manner of industrial machines, equipment and more. And they’re doing it really well…. You should feel threatened, at least a little bit, by big technology companies trying to instrument your assets for you, maybe to you… I’m going to tell it to you straight: He or she who controls the intelligence–the data about those assets, inventories and areas of operation–will control that market, the customer, the regulatory environment and the supply chain. They will control you.”

What a seismic shift from the old days of heavy construction, which was largely a matter of brute force and difficult demands on operators to remain always vigilant in the midst of loud noises.  Add in the sensors that these construction crews are now embedding in bridges’ structure and in buildings to monitor a wide range of stresses and environmental conditions, and the conclusion is inescapable: every industry can and will be fundamentally altered in the coming decade as equipment and processes begin switch the requirements from brawn to brains.

Thermostats: yet another example why open standards win with #IoT

Despite my passion for all things Apple and the incredible functionality that comes from Tim Cook’s passion for integrating all parts of the ecosystem seamlessly (and, as I’ve noted in prior disclaimers, my part-time work at the Apple Store ..), I don’t think there’s any doubt when it comes to the Internet of Things that open standards win out.

That’s because they meet the test of my favorite Essential Truth, “who else can use this data?”

It goes back to my Data Dynamite book and my work with Vivek Kundra when he was opening up data in the District of Columbia before becoming the US CIO: when you share data, you empower end users and can go beyond your own developers’ talents and interests, to harvest others’ interests and developments.

opower_sHere’s a great example. Opower’s OpenStat API enables the electric  industry’s only open thermostat management platform. It allows any smart thermostat provider to participate in existing Opower-managed utility thermostat programs. It combines energy usage, billing, parcel and weather data to engage customers, drive measurable energy efficiency, and deliver reliable demand response.  It already has 95 partner utilities, 50 million (really? that sounds high to me…) homes in 35 states sharing data.

By contrast, Nest (which of course was created by Apple alums) had to create a specific API to allow sharing its data. 

This API is Nest’s answer to the Learning Thermostat’s lack of Z-Wave or ZigBee wireless communication. Nest came under fire from the CEDIA crowd when the Learning Thermostat launched since it wouldn’t work within even $100k home automation systems. The thermostat wasn’t friendly with others. It wouldn’t talk to other home automation products using the legacy home automation protocols. This API could change everything.

The jury’s still out — and it will really be interesting to see how many other companies decide to integrate with Apple’s new Health and Home apps. On one hand, a proliferation of standards just retards more creative API mashups, a la IFTTT (my heros!!). On the other, seamless integration and ease-of-use, the Apple hallmarks, could go a long way to ingraining the IoT into consumers’ daily lives.

What do you think?

 

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Saving Lives With the Internet of Things: school lockdowns

Continuing with the meme of this morning’s post, that the real test of the IoT will be if it allows us to do something that we couldn’t do before, how about saving children’s lives as a good example of a new paradigm courtesy of the IoT?

I don’t believe in the NRA’s bizarre position that the way to avoid more school tragedies is to arm teachers (come to think of it, I don’t believe in anything the NRA proposes — if you do, sue me, I guess…) so it’s great to see that the Internet of Things (even better, a Massachusetts firm!) has stepped in with a non-violent solution allowing teachers to act immediately, without waiting for police, to protect their children.

This kind of solution is a particular passion of mine, since long-time readers of this blog know that I pioneered (as in October, 2001) using mobile devices for personal preparation for, and response to, terrorism and disaster situation.

According to Fast Company, Elerts has created Lock It Down™ and ELERTS Campus™, which allow teachers to trigger a lockdown from a smart phone or iPad app.

Among other features, Lock It Down™ includes great features for these high-pressure, instant-reaction situations:

  • Sharing: Transmits bi-directional information in seconds
  • Action: Can initiate a Lockdown with the press of a button
  • Options: Also offers Shelter in Place and Evacuate commands
  • Reporting: Text message, photos, and GPS map add context
  • Speed: Police see reports on their devices and can respond faster
  • Status: App includes “SkyWriter” for personal safety updates

Sweet!

ELERTS Campus™ is designed for colleges and larger campuses, and offers:

  • Reporting: Drop-down menu makes Report Type selection easy
  • Crowd-Sourcing: Message, photo, GPS map inform Security Dispatchers
  • Broadcast: Warnings can be broadcast to all students who use the app
  • Administration: The ELERTS EPICenter web console manages Reports
  • Alerts: ELERTS EPICenter allows 2-way chat with sender of original report
  • Virtual Monitoring: Users can activate “Escort Me” by pressing a button

These are just the kinds of tools that I dreamed of creating ten years ago, when all we had were the early Palm Pilots. What a great use of smart phones and the IoT!

The two programs are meant to be used in conjunction with the ALICE Training, as in Alert, Lock-down, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate.

Download the apps:

ELERTS Campus™ for iOS
ELERTS Campus™ for Android

 

 

 

Launching New Service Speaking About the Internet of Things

I’ve given speeches to business and academic audiences around the world for nearly 30 years, but haven’t tried my hand at paid public speaking until now!

However, I feel so strongly about the transformational potential of the Internet of Things that I want to evangelize on the Big Stage now, reaching corporate management, associations, and — very important — college and university students, with the message about how the IoT will change everything, and the challenges and opportunities it will bring.

So, I’ve added a new page to this site, promoting myself as a paid speaker and seminar leader.

While I’m glad to custom-craft a speech to your audience’s interests, I have several main ones tailored to various needs:

“It’s Not Just About Things, It’s About People… and Their Dreams”. Sometimes the emphasis on Internet of Things technology obscures the deeper truth: the IoT is really all about people – and improving their lives. This speech introduces laypeople and business leaders to the Internet of Things’ potential to transform every aspect of life for the better! From slippers that save the elderly from falls to hyper-efficient assembly lines that bring manufacturing jobs back to America, I give an uplifting, rapid-fire overview of the many ways the IoT is already changing our lives – and preview the even greater changes to come! I also talk about the important steps, such as new mind sets that value sharing information over hoarding it, that are necessary to fully realize the IoT’s potential.

Josh Siegel is 24. He is Reinventing the Auto Industry (this lecture is specifically aimed at college students). Josh Siegel is a 24-year old Detroiter, MIT grad student and entrepreneur. He uses the IoT to reinvent cars – whether or not Detroit is ready. Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino is 32, and created an IoT sensation, the Good Night Lamp. Dulcey Madden is 32 (her partners are both 24), and her Peeko “onsie” is saving the lives of infants who might otherwise die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

In this lecture you’ll hear about these and other young visionaries and inventors who are discovering new entrepreneurial opportunities in the Internet of Things. I challenge young listeners: what’s your passion? How will you find satisfying – and enriching – work in this exciting new field? What problem can you solve by inventing an IoT device?

P.S: Ask me to stay around the day after my speech to meet with your senior staff to advise them on how the IoT will affect your college or university, and how you can use it to increase efficiency and cut operating costs!

“I … see all … the devices in your home and … control them”. That’s how a Forbes reporter woke up an unsuspecting homeowner who’d bought an advanced home automation system – and got non-existent security in the bargain!

The Internet of Things might come to a grinding halt if the public and companies feel that their privacy and security are being violated. That’s a very real possibility – former CIA director David Petraeus waxed poetic about its potential as a spycraft tool, and a number of sensationalistic mainstream media reports have detailed the possible dangers of lax IoT privacy and security measures.

In this speech, I may scare you, but I’ll definitely get your attention! I lay out all the risks, issue a challenge to everyone involved in the IoT to make security and privacy a priority, and detail the current state of collaborative efforts to improve security and privacy.

I’m enthusiastic, well-informed, witty, (add positive adjective of your choice here …… , LOL) and convincing! If you’re interested in booking me, just fill out the contact form and download my “speaker one sheet.”

Could IoT Allow Do-over for Privacy, Security — & Trust?

Posted on 13th September 2013 in communication, management, privacy, security

Expect to be reading a lot here about privacy and security between now and my panel on those issues at the IoT Summit in DC, Oct. 1 & 2, as I prep to ask the panel questions!

Here’s another, from Stacy Higginbotham (BTW, she does a great podcast on IoT issues!), based on a conversation with ARM CTO Mike Muller. It’s reassuring to see that this IoT-leading firm is taking privacy and security seriously. Even more refreshingly, theirs is a nuanced and thoughtful view.

Muller told Higginbotham that IoT vendors should learn from some of the missteps on privacy on the Web so far, and make amends:

“’We should think about trust as who has access to your data and what they can do with it. For example, I’ll know where you bought something, when you bought it, how often and who did you tweet about it.

“When you put the long tail of lots of bits of information and big data analytics associated with today’s applications we can discern a lot. And people are not thinking it through. … I think it’s the responsibility of the industry that, as people connect, to make them socially aware of what’s happening with their data and the methods that are in place to make connections between disparate sets of data (my emphasis). In the web that didn’t happen, and the sense of lost privacy proliferated and it’s all out there. People are trying to claw that back and implement privacy after the fact.”

Higginbotham adds that “… what troubles Muller is that today, there’s nothing that supports trust and privacy in the infrastructure associated with the internet of things.”

What struck me, as someone who used to earn his living doing corporate crisis management, is that one of the critical issues in trust (or lack thereof) is guilt by association may not be logically valid, but is emotionally powerful: if people’s preconception of IoT privacy and security standards is that they’re simply an extension of Internet ones, there’s likely to be trouble.

She goes on to differentiate between security, privacy — and trust.

“Trust is the easiest to define and the hardest to implement. It relies on both transparency and making an effort to behave consistently ….  When it comes to connected devices and apps, trust is probably most easily gained by explaining what you do with people’s data: what you share and with whom. It might also extend to promises about interoperability and supporting different platforms. Implicitly trust with connected devices also means you will respect people’s privacy and follow the best security practices….

“Privacy is more a construct of place as opposed to something associated with a specific device. So a connected camera on a public street is different from a connected camera inside your home. It’s easy to say that people shouldn’t be able to just grab a feed from inside your home — either from a malicious hack or the government (or a business) doing a random data scrape. But when it comes to newer connected devices like wearables it gets even more murky: Consider that something like a smart meter can share information about the user to someone who knows what to look for.

“So when thinking about the internet of things and privacy, it’s probably useful to start with thinking about the data the device generates….

(As for security:) “To protect privacy when everything is connected will require laws that punish violations of people’s privacy and draw lines that companies and governments can’t step over; but it will also require vigilance by users. To get this right, users should be reading the agreements they click through when they connect a device, but companies should also create those agreements, especially around data sharing transparent, in a way that inspires trust.

Governments and companies need to think about updating laws for a connected age and set criteria about how different types of data are transported and shared. Health data might still need the HIPAA-levels of regulations, but maybe looser standards can prevail for connected thermostats.”

Sounds to me as if there’s a role in these complex issues for all of us: vendors, government, and users.

But the one take-away that I have from Muller’s remarks is that IoT vendors must realize they have to earn users trust, and that’s going to require a combination of technical measures and unambiguous, plain-English communication with users about who owns their data and how it will be used. To me, that means not hiding behind the lawyers and agate-type legal disclaimers, but clear, easy-to-understand declarations about users’ rights to their data and companies’ need to directly ask them for access, displayed prominently, with the default being that the user completely denies access, and must opt in for it to be shared. 

What do you think?

Higginbotham concludes that “we need to stop freaking out about the dangers of connected devices and start having productive discussions about implementing trust and security before the internet of things goes the way of the web. Wonderful, free and a total wild west when it comes to privacy.” Hopefully, that’s what will happen during our October 1st panel.