Internet of Things Can Pay Off for Small & Medium Businesses Too

Think again, if you’re a small and medium-sized business (SMB) that is holding back on Internet of Things projects until the price of software and components such as sensors came down and the technology is more robust!

INEX Advisors’ IoT Impact LABS, an accelerator program in New Bedford, MA brings together IoT startups, top technology and industrial suppliers such as Analog Devices, Dell, and PTC/ ThingWORX, plus legal and policy experts to use the IoT help innovative, sustainable small and medium-sized businesses in the region in fields such as “smart cities,” food and agriculture, water and maritime, and energy and transportation.

One is particularly noteworthy because it is bringing fishing into the 21st century.

Island Creek Oysters of Duxbury MA, was plagued by the need to do a five-step, paper-based food safety inspection reporting on variables such as water temperature and pH, that had to be recorded precisely during the two-hour window after low tide when it had to harvest the oysters.  It’s difficult to do both.

The Mass. Department of Fisheries Management brought together INEX and Island Creek to develop a real-time digital program to both monitor the oysters and do the data collection. Chris Rezendes, partner at Inex Advisors, said the department contacted IoT Impact Labs to figure out a digital traceability program for shellfish farmers in Massachusetts, which includes Island Creek’s farm in Duxbury Mass., just a half-hour south of Boston.

IoT Impact Labs put together a solution to enable monitoring of conditions in real time, wirelessly.

“There are just dozens of instrumentation opportunities. That means dozens of opportunities for sensors, and firmware, and connectivity, and analytics vendors,” Rezendes told CRN.

The project included replacing time-consuming human monitoring of more than 60 water pumps with wireless sensors.

The LABS will release more information about the other projects in coming months, and will host one of our Boston/New England IoT Meetups on February 29 in New Bedford (6 PM, 1213 Purchase Street), with speakers including:

  • Dave Wiley, PhD. NOAA, Research Director, Stellwagon National Marine Sanctuary. He has led the development and deployment of sensor buoys and marine mammal tracking, including supporting a recreational marine application based on his team’s work.
  • Dave Duquette, Founder and CEO, Littoral Power Systems which recently closed its Seed Round, including a prestigious ARPA-E grant. Their kinetic energy harvesting systems are breaking ground in tidal energy capture.
  • Brian Coffey, environmental sensing and instrumentation lead at Analog Devices.

 

Boston Crowdsourced Campaign to Give City 1st Citywide Free IoT Data Network in US

You’ll remember I got quite excited while blogging the new citywide free IoT data network in Amsterdam, and decided on the spot to make Boston the first US city with such a network.  Here’s our release!

Crowdsourced Campaign to Create Free Citywide IoT-Data Network in Boston
would be first city in US to share Internet of Things’ benefits citywide

(Boston, September 21, 2018) — A crowdsourced campaign will make Boston the first US city with a free, citywide Internet of Things (IoT) data network, facilitating entrepreneurial, municipal, and neighborhood innovations in everything from traffic reduction to public health.

The Boston campaign is based on one in Amsterdam that built a similar network in a month (although not penetrating all neighborho0ds), and activists there are helping the Boston effort. While being built, the Amsterdam system already spawned uses such as a water detector to canal boat owner a text that a boat is filling with water and a system for the Port of Amsterdam using sensors to create real-time information to help manage boat traffic more efficiently. The campaign complements opening of the INEX IoT Impact Lab in New Bedford, President Obama’s $160 million fund for “smart cities” projects, and the Amsterdam group’s effort to spread the approach to 5 continents.

The network will use new LoRaWAN gateways, which  let things exchange data without 3G or Wi-Fi, and feature low battery usage and a range of up to 7 miles.  Several companies have already donated units to the Boston campaign before the launch.

According to IoT thought leader W. David Stephenson of Stephenson Strategies, who also founded the 1,500 member Boston IoT Meetup (which will form the core of the crowd-sourced campaign), “We hope to gain wide public and private support because this will not only spark profitable innovation, but also other efforts that will make Boston, especially the neighborhoods, a better place to live. Think of what your companies — and the city as a whole — could do if we had such a network: the entire city of Boston would become an IoT lab/sandbox, encouraging incredible innovation in use of IoT. But we must move quickly if we are to be the first US city with such a network.”

IoT entrepreneur Chris Rezendes of INEX Advisors, co-chair of the IoT Meetup and creator of the New Bedford IoT Impact Lab, said “the IoT will prove its real value when people and companies can see the tangible results improving their daily lives and corporate efficiency. From New Bedford to Boston, we’re a world leader in making the IoT a tangible reality for companies and cities alike.”

Wish us luck: if we’re successful, look forward to working with The Things Network to spread the concept worldwide — the sooner the better!

My presentation tonight on human communication and the IoT

I just uploaded my presentation to tonight’s Boston/New England IoT Meetup, which will be held in Providence beginning at 5:30.

I’ll be speaking about what’s often overlooked in the introduction of exciting new technologies — and the IoT is no exception: the human communication possibilities and challenges that it introduces.

In the case of the IoT, all of the attention on automatic, non-human mediated  machine-to-machine communication obscures the fact that the IoT will have profound implications for human communications as well.

More than anything, it’s the fact that, for the first time, we’ll be able to share critical data on a real-time basis among co-workers, our supply chains, our distribution networks, and our customers. IMHO, that changes everything: workers will be able to do their jobs better because they’ll know exactly what’s happening at the time, and we’ll be able to make better decisions because everyone with a valuable perspective will be able to chime in at the same time: reducing the chance that some critical aspect of the issue will go ignored. That’s going to be amazing!

I’ll also talk about Chris Rezendes’ concept of “ground truth,” i.e., that one of the things we’ll be able to share in making those better decisions is “device intelligence,” real-time data from “smart things.” Hopefully this will lead to fact-based decision making (OK, maybe I’m a Pollyanna!) .

I conclude with my argument that, to fully take advantage of this real-time data flow, we need new management styles, including a “Buckyball Management” organizational chart in which every member of the organization is an important, value-creating “node” and every member can communicate with every other member when its relevant.

Hope you can make it tonight!

Essential Truth: Gathering “Ground Truth” through IoT

This is the second in my occasional series of “Essential Truths” — key principles and questions about the Internet of Things.

On Tuesday, when I speak to our next Boston/New England IoT Meetup on the issue of “human communications and the IoT” one of the concepts I’ll be focusing on is what Chris Rezendes of INEX Advisors calls “ground truth,” a concept he was exposed to through his work with clients in the defense industry.

This is the idea that when devices become “smart,” they give off “digital exhaust” (in the same way as our searches do, which Google analyzes, allowing improvement in search results) which creates “device intelligence” that we can analyze and act upon. That is ground truth: accurate data about real-world conditions that we can share in real-time to improve operating performance and analysis.

According to Chris,

“You will have data, objective facts, about that tree or tidal pool, that machine or that vehicle, that room or that field, that patient or that criminal. The data in that ground truth will complement certain aspects of our perceptions about those things; and displace our misperceptions. And that ground truth will help us all make better decisions about how to manage our time on earth.”
— “Internet of Things: Grandest Opportunity, Most Stubborn Challenges

It seems to me that this is one of the IoT’s most important potential benefits: improving decision-making by being able to base it on factual, timely information.

Think, for example, about the contentious issue of global warming. Cisco’s  “Planetary Skin,” and HP’s  “central nervous system for the planet” projects will deploy unprecedented numbers of remote sensors planet-wide, yielding real-time data about how global warming is affecting your community. It may not win over the hard-core global warming deniers (they’ll never listen to reason, IMHO!) but it should provide the objective evidence that rational people can agree on as the basis for action.

Even better, we can also improve this decision making because of my first “Essential Truth,” learning to ask “who else can use this data?”  Think of it: within limits, of course, the more perspectives that are brought into decision making the more likely we are to make sound decisions, because the likelihood of leaving out some important perspective and not analyzing all the possible ramifications is reduced. In the past, we could never do that, because we didn’t have the real-time data, and we couldn’t involve all of those people on a real-time basis.

I suspect that this will be a major issue for management theorists to bat around in coming years, and that our decision-making processes will be fundamentally altered for the better. IMHO, it is this change in decision making, not advances such as automatic regulation of assembly lines or building in feedback loops between manufacturers and customers, is perhaps the most important thing that the IoT will allow. It will have profound impact!

Thanks for the concept, Chris!

I’ll speak on human communication aspect of IoT on 18th

Chris Rezendes of INEX Advisors continues to push me to create some thought capital around the issue of human communication and the Internet of Things.

He’s asked me to speak at the next  IoT Boston/New England Meetup, on June 18th, when we’ll move south to Providence (at the offices of Betaspring, 95 Chestnut Street, 3rd floor).

I’ll talk about a number of communication issues that I think will have a major impact on whether we really take full advantage of the IoT:

  • my 1st “Essential Truth,” that we must begin to ask “who else could use this data.” 
  • let’s not use the IoT as an excuse to fully-automate processes and procedures (the subject of my next blog post): instead, let’s use it as the means to fine-tuning and customizing.
  • turning monologues into dialogues: I think that’s going to be particularly vital in medicine, where the potential for two-way communication on a real-time basis between doctor and patient should empower the patient.
  • improving discussions of operations and strategy by basing them on what Chris Rezendes calls “ground truth.”
  • the need for a whole new management style that’s based on empowering every employee, every supplier, every distributor and every customer.

The later point harkens back to a long piece I wrote in 1995 for Network World (sorry, it’s no longer available online. When I get a chance I’ll add abuckyball-1-small section to this blog that will include access to my speeches and articles going back to 1990…) that I think is even more relevant today: that we need to scrap hierarchical, linear management styles and instead substitute what I call “Buckyball Management,” in which conventional organizational charts are replaced by spherical ones in which every person is an important node in the organization and there is no longer any up or down: anyone can reach out to anyone else. THAT, my friends, will be a real revolution!

Hope you can make it to The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (The longest official state name is a great trivia question … ) on the 18th!

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Essential #IoT Truths: who else could use this data?

Two weeks ago at the EntreTech seminar on the Internet of Things, good buddy Chris Rezendes told an anecdote that blew me away, both because it was such a powerful demonstration of the IoT’s potential to transform our world and because it reminded me of one of the IoT’s “Essential Truths.”

Chris mentioned that Grundfos, the world’s largest pump manufacturer, now includes sensors that report on the operating status of pumps at remote wells that dot Africa. They did it so that monitoring the wells would allow customers to improve maintenance of the wells and do it more economically, dispatching repair crews only when needed.

Nice, but not the cool, transformational part!

As you may know, Africans (primarily the women) often walk hours each day to-and-from their villages in order to get vital water — often carrying big jugs on their shoulders for many miles. Some dear soul at Grundfos realized that the same data that helped their customers improve management of the wells could also let the women know when there was adequate water flow at the well to make it worthwhile to make the trek (rather than having to walk to several wells before actually finding water — an all-too-frequent occurence).  So Grundfos made the data available to designers who were able to create an app that the women could read on their phones before leaving their village to determine where to go.  It cut the average amount of time the women spend per day hunting for water from 8 hours to 3 — a dramatic savings that allows them to spend their time on more productive and less tiring activities!  Isn’t that wonderful?

The second lesson I drew from the Grundfos data story was one that I first detailed two years ago in my book Data Dynamite: I argued that in the new era of “democratizing data,” that managers need to learn to routinely ask a new question when they examine a data set:

“WHO ELSE COULD USE THIS DATA?”

With the vast quantities of data that will be created by the IoT, the question is more relevant than ever!

This question doesn’t come easily to many managers. For so long, the secret to economic success was proprietary information that I had and you didn’t (for those with long memories, proprietary operating systems were the secret to the “Massachusetts Miracle” of the 1980s, when companies such as DEC and Prime created entire ecosystems around their proprietary systems).

Now, however, the future lies with open standards and shared data, that will actually create more wealth by sharing information because other people with a particular insight or critical need will realize that your data can be combined in mashups with other data sets to create whole new insights and valuable information.

Asking this question can also be a powerful tool to get rid of information silos within organizations, on the realization that many people in many departments can now potentially share the same near-real-time data at the same time, both improving coordination of activities such as supply-chain management and improving decision-making.

It’s time to wipe away the last vestiges of the old way of creating wealth and instead ask ourselves “who else could use this data?” The chances are that, whether inside your organization or — more daringly — outside it, you’ll be able to find other potential users who can cooperate to create new services and revenue streams as well as increasing operating efficiency.

So who else could use your Internet of Things data?

PS: I’ll be offering more of these “Essential #IoT Truths” on an occasional basis in the future, prodded by Chris Rezendes, who finally hammered it into my thick skull that all of my years in consulting on communications in a wide range of field meant that my unique contribution to the IoT can and should be to help  companies with the human communication aspects of the IoT that often tend to get obscured by our emphasis on machine-2-machine communication. Thanks, Chris (I plan to develop consulting services in this area to be offered in conjunction with INEX Advisors)! I’ll be speaking on this topic at a Meetup in Providence later this month — details to follow.

If you’re in Boston, hope you’ll come to EntreTech Tuesday!

Posted on 17th May 2013 in Internet of Things, management

Just got off a conference call with the participants in what’s shaping up to be a great panel on the Internet of Things at Northeastern University’s EntreTech Forum series, Tuesday night in Waltham.

EntreTech Forum

In addition to moi, the participants will be:

  • old friend Chris Rezendes, my partner-in-crime with the IoT Meetup series and CEO of INEX Advisors, THE IoT strategy consultants
  • Josh Siegel, who was one of the stars of the first IoT Meetup with his presentation on the MIT CloudThink car project! Josh is also founder of CarKnow.
  • Richard Pietravalle, a principal at MITRE Corporation.
  • Hans Scharler, co-founder of ioBridge, which creates gatesways that “make it easy for professionals and enthusiasts to monitor and control nearly anything via their smart phone or web app.”

I’ll provide an overview of the IoT for those who aren’t familiar with it, and the other panelists will give an insider’s perspective on the entrepreneurial opportunities for both old and new companies created by the IoT.

The EntreTech Forum consists of moderated monthly panel discussions on emerging academic research and the commercialization of this technology.  It was designed for those interested in technology innovation and marketing collaboration and networking with fellow entrepreneurs, business and government executives, investors, and technology researchers.

Registration costs $25, reduced to $10 for students and active military. The event begins at 6:30 with networking and snacks, and will be held at the Foley Hoag’s Emerging Enterprise Center at the Bay Colony Corporate Center, 1000 Winter Street, Suite 4000 (North Entrance), in Waltham.

See you there!