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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