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!