3 Steps to Make Your City a World Leader in the IoT

I don’t know about you, but, in the face of grim news globally, I’m determined to make this an incredible year of change and growth.

Happy New Year!

I took a longer than normal time off, to pick up our youngest in Hong Kong after a semester abroad in Thailand, then vacation in Bali.

Hong Kong Internet of Things Association

I started the trip with a speech to the Hong Kong Internet of Things Association, in which I laid out my vision of radical change in corporate management and organization made possible by the IoT, away from the increasingly-obsolete hierarchical and linear forms that made perfect sense in an early 20th-century setting when data was hard to gather and share, but doesn’t when the IoT can allow instant sharing of real-time data by all who need it.

But the most interesting issue came up in the following q & a, when someone asked whether Hong Kong could become a global leader in the IoT.

I told them yes, and followed up with an op-ed in today’s South China Morning Post laying out the steps.

I believe the same steps can help your city become an IoT leader, and that this is a case of the-more-the-merrier: the more cities become IoT leaders the quicker widespread innovation and IoT adoption will become, and the more liveable and efficient our cities — the necessary focus of global growth in this century, especially to meet the challenge of global warming — will become.  So here goes!

  1. Create an IoT community.The one in Boston that I founded is now three years old, and numbers almost 2,000 members. My reason for doing it was that I’d run into many people working in the IoT here (Boston is listed as having the 4th largest concentration of IoT headquarters) but they were largely working in isolation, without a forum to bring them together.

    Forming an IoT network is a crucial step, because the IoT is inherently collaborative: as I’ve written many times before, “network effects” make each individual IoT device or service more valuable if they can be combined with others (for example, Apple’s HomeKit now allows someone to simply say “Siri, it’s time for bed,” and that voice command can trigger collaborative action by a variety of devices from different manufacturers, such as turning down the thermostat, locking the front door, and turning off the lights, which makes each of these IoT devices more valuable than they would be in isolation). Equally important, face-to-face contact may spark ideas that even the most talented IoT practitioner wouldn’t have thought of, huddled alone in his or her garret (or kewl cow0rking space…).

    An association that brings together all of your IoT practitioners will create synergistic benefits for all of them.

  2. Embrace the “smart city” vision. 

    This has the biggest potential payoff for your city, whether or not it becomes a big IoT commercial hub.Traditionally, cities have been laggards in technology adoption, but that’s no longer the case, starting in 2008, when I had the extreme privilege of being a consultant to DC CTO Vivek Kundra (who later became the first US CIO, specifically because of his achievements in DC) when he launched the DC Open Data initiative and the Apps [remember, this was 2008: what the heck are these “apps”???] for America contest to design apps to capitalize on this real-time data.  Hundreds of cities worldwide have embraced the concept, and because it stresses that the solutions be open source, cities that are late to the game can quickly benefit by adopting and adapting creative solutions that others have pioneered.

    When the IoT came along, many of these cities and their entrepreneurial residents were quick to realize their real-time data could lead to IoT apps and services that would deal with many of the prime concerns of cities: traffic control, mass transit, electricity, public health, environmental quality, and water and sewage (Credit where credit is due: IBM’s pioneering Smarter Planet service started working with many of the early adopters even before the smart city movement had a name).

    Cities that have launched comprehensive smart city programs, especially Barcelona’s, which includes projects ranging from free wi-fi to health monitoring for seniors to an app to find parking spaces, have realized tangible benefits while cutting operating costs and that will be the case for newcomers as well.

    Sometimes these initiatives tap the collaborative nature of the IoT to produce a public benefit that would be hideously expensive if they were carried out by municipal workers. For example, in Boston the “Street Bump” smartphone app uses the phone’s sensors to detect if the user’s car hits a pothole, then instantly reports the exact location to the city’s Department of Public Works (DPW). In essence, every driver becomes a de facto DPW employee!

  3. Finally,  join in the worldwide “Things Network” movement.As I’ve written before, this will create citywide, free networks for IoT data exchange, in essence turning an entire city into an IoT laboratory for experimentation and mutual benefit.

    This campaign, which was crowdsourced by only 10 technology enthusiasts in Amsterdam last August, successfully created a citywide data network there in less than a month, using 10 $1200 (USD) “LoRaWan gateways.”  LoRanWan is particularly suited to the IoT because it demands little power, has long range (up to 11 km) and low bandwidth. It wouldn’t require passwords, mobile subscription and zero setup costs.

    There are already 27 cities pursuing Things Networks, and the parent organization is making the concept even easier to deploy through a successful Kickstarter campaign last Fall to raise money to build a new LoRaWan gateway that would only cost $200.

    Unlike the full involvement of city government in initiatives such as opening city data bases, a Things Network is best done by volunteers, so that it will not be co-opted by official government agencies or powerful commercial interests: it is most powerful if it’s open to absolutely anyone who wants to try out a smart Internet of Things idea, while also potentially saving the city the cost of administering an expensive program that could instead be run by volunteers at little cost.

So there you have it: 3 practical steps to make your city a world leader in the Internet of Things that will improve urban life and make the city more efficient even if you don’t make the top 10.  Let’s get cracking!

More evidence U.S. lags dangerously behind EU on IoT privacy

There’s new confirmation that the U.S. remains dangerously behind the European Union on the twin issues of Internet of Things privacy and security. As I’ve warned before, especially in the context of the continued outrage over the NSA surveillance, if these issues aren’t solved collaboratively by the private sector and government, they threaten to derail the IoT express.

In her Stanford Masters thesis, I believe Mailyn (sic) Fidler accurately summarizes the US’s stance:

“The IoT in the United States is characterized by late but strong entry of companies to the market and by recent, but minimal, interest from the federal government. Specifically, the federal government views the IoT largely as part of the ongoing privacy and security discussion in Washington, D.C. Complicating analysis of the IoT in the United States is that the “Internet of Things” is not a generally recognized term. In the U.S., the IoT is viewed as a natural evolution of American innovation rather than as a unique field.”

http://m3.licdn.com/mpr/mpr/shrink_80_80/p/2/000/0dc/3bd/392d2fe.jpgFidler contrasts this lack of concern by the government to the EU, which, while also

Mailyn Fidler

viewing IoT privacy in the broader context of general privacy policy, has made IoT personal privacy and security a priority — more about that in a future post about the “Butler Project” report):

“The IoT has been a political priority for the European Union. Even with the recent recession, interest and funding in IoT enterprises has not slowed, and the EU has invested 70 million Euros in at least 50 research projects since 2008. In addition to the EU’s hopes that the IoT will bring economic benefits, particularly to small businesses and public institutions, the EU’s interest in the IoT reflects its concerns about who controls emerging technologies. Indeed, EU officials have stated an ambition to build an IoT ‘that will bring about clear advantages for Europe.’

However, despite the EU’s investments, a lack of legislative clarity, slow technical progress, and pressure from international strategic interactions threaten to slow EU efforts to develop a globally competitive, European-centric IoT.

The EU considers privacy a societal priority and has a history of regulating technologies to prevent privacy risks, as its Data Protection Directive indicates. The IoT is no different. The privacy risks the IoT presents, however, are discussed in the context of ongoing data protection reform in the EU. EU officials are debating how to author broad, technology-neutral guidance while, at the same time, many officials seem convinced that technology-specific guidance will be necessary. The EU’s political prioritization of the IoT fuels attempts at lobbying for IoT-specific regulation, as the myriad, overlapping attempts at IoT guidance demonstrate. The IoT’s advancement, then, is mired in this larger debate about the future of technology policy.”

Even with this greater focus, Fidler says the EU hasn’t made as much progress as might be hoped. Only 1 of the 33 2010 Cluster of European Research Projects on IoT explicitly investigated security, and, in a study the same year of IoT standards, only 2 or 175 explicityly investigated security — and none have addressed IoT cybersecurity.

In other words, they ain’t great, but we’re worse (in fact, among US agencies, only the FTC seems to give a fig about the IoT). Pathetic.

Fidler’s report also covers China. You can bet that privacy and security aren’t high on their priority list, LOL.

The EU, while perhaps lagging behind on IoT technology, may get the last laugh on the privacy and security issues. As we’ve seen with successful suits against Microsoft and Google on other Internet issues, the EU has prevailed in the past on questions of privacy and security, and, according to Fidler, it may happen again:

“The EU, faced with the IoT approaches of the United States and China—arguably the leading centers of technological innovation—may stand behind its social parameters and emphasis on new international governance mechanisms as a way of asserting alternative power. With such laws and institutions, economic activities involving the EU and the IoT would have to conform to EU-based standards. The EU, thus, compensates for technological disadvantages in innovation through social and governance parameters. Similarly, the United States and China are seeking to maintain or create their technical edge in new cyber technologies by encouraging unique standards regimes or more aggressive development environments.”

If so, I say bully for them! Someone has to stand up for the individual in this brave new world, and it looks as if the Obama Administration isn’t taking the challenge. Shame!

Fidler concludes that the geopolitical competition among the U.S., E.U., and China may have negative effects on the IoT’s overall growth if it results in incompatible standards:

“This geopolitical competition at such an early stage of the IoT’s development could create international interoperability problems, with negative political, economic, and social consequences. How governments and societies navigate the technological and political aspects of the emergence of the IoT will determine if the IoT’s benefits will be ubiquitously available or if the Internet’s foray into the realm of things will be interrupted.”

FADE TO Youngbloods singing “Get Together”…..

Fewer, faster, finer: good values for #IoT innovators!

Just had a great conversation with a brilliant consultant, Michael Woody, the president and founder of International Marketing Advantages, Inc (he and I have the same wonderful literary agent, Michael Snell).

Woody helps small, innovative companies successfully compete with China, using a simple formula: fewer, faster, finer.

  • Fewer: think of China’s Foxcom, and its huge factory complexes and huge production runs. By contast, “American Dragon” companies ” lower minimum order sizes; the lower a minimum order size, the better. If a product can be customized, even better still.”

  • Faster: think about how far away China is, and how long it takes to ship products: “In today’s business environment of tighter margins, it is likely that your U.S. customers currently buying from China favor low inventory levels and just in time delivery. Given these conditions, short production lead times and physical proximity of supply chain partners becomes more critical.”
  • Finer: “…means not only that your product is of the highest quality, but also that it is safe. Overseas manufacturers, particularly those in China, have little to no understanding of the product safety regulations in the United States. Even large multi-national corporations, some based in the U.S, who have outsourced manufacturing to China are learning that lesson the hard way. These tougher regulations are your friend, so use them to your advantage.”

Check out the American Dragon site, and think hard on how to apply these principles in conjunction with your innovative Internet of Things product design, and I think you’ve got the formula for manufacturing success!